Milwaukee County sheriff's officials are investigating at least a half-dozen current or former state employees suspected of involvement with an ongoing food stamp and disaster relief fraud scheme, court records show.
Search warrants have turned up more than 500 names and Social Security numbers, plus fraudulently obtained Department of Health Services documents.
A single "Quest card" - the electronic benefits transfer card that replaced paper food stamps - wrongly issued in the name of an Illinois man has cost taxpayers more than $11,500, according to records, and one person told investigators she routinely bought the cards for 50 cents on the dollar from others who needed the cash to pay their utility bills.
The Illinois man told investigators an old friend who worked for the Department of Health Services told him to apply for Milwaukee-area disaster relief in 2008 since "FEMA was giving out free money" because of recent floods. He declined, but a relief payment of $975 went out in his name soon after, to an address in Milwaukee.
Those aspects and an outline of the fraud investigation are revealed in a detective's affidavit that supported a search warrant request. On Thursday, Milwaukee County sheriff's office detectives seized names with personally identifiable information, along with DHS documents and fraudulent food stamp cards, from a home and car in the 6900 block of N. 40th St. belonging to Teri L. Sloans, identified in court documents as a recently fired DHS employee.
An official with DHS alerted sheriff's investigators earlier in February that Sloans, 50, had created a fraudulent Quest card for an Illinois resident. According to records, Sloans had been hired in 1988 by Milwaukee County as an economic support specialist with the county's Department of Health and Human Services, part of the collection of aid programs to the poor taken over by the state Department of Health Services in 2009. That year, she was paid $39,559, according to Milwaukee County controller's office records.
According to the affidavit, the DHS official told investigators two other county employees - Sharon A. Williams, 50, and Rosa E. Ordonez, 46 - assisted Sloans in creating the bogus card for the Illinois man. Neither they nor Sloans could be reached Tuesday for comment. County officials said Williams and Ordonez still show as county employees in the state-administered programs.
Using a purchase record of a Quest card that was used suspiciously at a Franklin Wal-Mart and a Milwaukee Piggly Wiggly on Christmas Eve, detectives obtained video surveillance from each store that showed two women, one of them using the fraudulent card along with a third person's Piggly Wiggly card at that store.
Detectives traced the store card to a Milwaukee address, and a woman who lived with that card's owner said she had been shopping on the video with another woman. That woman admitted to investigators that she had used the fraudulent Quest card, which she'd gotten from Sloans, her neighbor, and had gotten as many as 20 such cards from her over the years.
The woman acknowledged she didn't qualify for DHS benefits but thought she was helping out someone else by buying the cards - good for about $200 of groceries - for $100.
Detectives then obtained a warrant to search Sloans' home and car.
A spokeswoman for the Milwaukee County sheriff's office said no one could comment on an ongoing investigation.
A spokeswoman with the state Department of Health Services said Tuesday that officials who could comment on the fraud investigation were busy with Gov. Scott Walker's budget address.http://www.jsonline.com/news/crime/117202563.html