Amid estimates that child-care fraud by welfare-to-work recipients costs California taxpayers up to $1.5 billion a year, the county Board of Supervisors directed its staff Tuesday to convene a task force to identify and investigate offenders. The public-assistance fraud task force will develop an interagency database to cross-check and find repeat offenders, and alert the District Attorney’s Office and other county departments, including Children and Family Services and Child Support Services. “This ties everything together so there is interface among county departments,” said Tony Bell, spokesman for Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. “If one department notices on the database that there is a perpetrator of fraud in one department, they can coordinate with another department to see if they fraudulently obtained other public assistance.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE‘Mame,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ composer Jerry Herman dies at 88 The Daily News reported in January that officials estimate as much as half of all welfare money paid to needy families for child care is being fraudulently obtained. The scam is increasingly popular in the county, where Department of Public Social Services investigators have opened more than 800 cases involving child-care fraud. The scam typically involves welfare-to-work recipients who fabricate employers or exaggerate work hours to qualify for taxpayer-financed child care. Then they split the money with friends and relatives who claim to be caring for the children. The supervisors also voted Tuesday to support legislation by state Sen. Bob Margett, R-Diamond Bar, that would require the California Department of Education to establish a two-year pilot project in the county to investigate potential incidents of child-care fraud in state-run programs. In the past year, more than $357 million dollars in child-care subsidies were provided to low-income and welfare families in the county, Supervisor Don Knabe said. About $235 million of that was paid out by the state. “There are no clear safeguards in place to detect, investigate and prosecute fraud in these programs,” Knabe said. “This is in stark contrast to the (county programs where) strong measures are in place for the Department of Public Social Services to detect and prevent fraud.” DPSS Director Bryze Yokomizo said his office has about 200 welfare fraud investigators. He noted that the county’s welfare fraud hotline has helped investigators detect more than $65 million in welfare fraud since 1988. Still, James L. Cosper, a prosecutor in the Welfare Fraud Division, estimates the state loses 40 percent to 50 percent of its $2 billion to $3 billion child-care allocation. “We are just at the tip of the welfare fraud iceberg,” Cosper said. “In just the handful of cases we’ve had in the last eight months, we’ve identified more than $8 million in losses. The budget for the county is in the billions for public assistance programs. “And with cutbacks at DPSS, they are only submitting about half of the cases to us they used to submit. I think the logical conclusion is that the losses are much greater than either of us realize.” Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!