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AG Nessel, MDHHS Announce Welfare Fraud Pretrial Diversion Program

LANSINGToday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the creation of a new initiative, in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), the Welfare Fraud Pretrial Diversion Program.

The Welfare Fraud Pretrial Diversion Program was created to resolve cases of fraud perpetrated against the assistance program without necessitating criminal charges, prosecution, and potentially lengthy and burdensome trials within the court system. Resolution via the diversion program, which will only be available to first-time offenders alleged to have committed fraud below a dollar-amount threshold and agreeing to reimburse the State for ill-gotten sums, will allow the defendant to restore stolen funds and avoidcriminal convictions, which could severely impact their access to employment and stable housing opportunities.

The diversion program requires participants to pay full restitution to MDHHS in the sum of the fraudulently obtained benefits. MDHHS will be working with participants to establish a payment plan that delivers restitution to the State within a reasonable timeframe. Enrollment of a defendant in the diversion program, as opposed to a traditional criminal prosecution, will be determined by prosecutors on a case-by-case basis.

Typical welfare fraud defendants are individuals who earn very little income, who committed fraud to satisfy basic, everyday needs for their families,” said Nessel. “That’s not to say they did not commit crimes against public institutions that must be addressed, but there is a better way to prosecute these offenses that doesn’t strike against the goals of public assistance. A criminal conviction on an offender’s record can affect their lives for years to come, making it even more difficult to pull themselves out of their present circumstances. I am grateful that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General was a willing partner in helping create this program, which allows those who have broken the law to repair their wrongs in a way that won’t so dramatically impair their ability to improve their lives and financial security.

To be eligible for the program, the applicant must:

  • Not be an MDHHS employee; 
  • Not have any prior welfare fraud convictions; and 
  • Not have committed fraud totaling more than $10,000. 

“MDHHS and the department’s Office of Inspector General work to maintain the integrity of public assistance programs so that benefits are available to those who truly need them and taxpayer dollars are protected,” said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. “The Welfare Fraud Pretrial Diversion program will allow first-time offenders to pay restitution while maintaining program integrity and ensuring that benefits continue to reach those who need them most.”

After launching one week ago, the program has already received 31 cases with more cases arriving daily.


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