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24 Pepp. L. Rev. 1235 (1996-1997)
Welfare Fraud and the Fourth Amendment

handle is hein.journals/pepplr24 and id is 1245 raw text is: Welfare Fraud and

the Fourth Amendment
Erik G. Luna
Welfare fraud is an epidemic. Although concentrated in the impover-
ished inner cities of America, this pathetic form of theft has been un-
covered in uptown apartments and beach-front condos. Public assis-
tance fraud can be perpetrated by individuals, families, and mom-and-
pop grocery stores. In some cities, it can take on the characteristics of
organized crime. Welfare fraud has even corrupted the public officials
in which the citizenry has vested solemn trust. The numbers are stag-
gering-billions of dollars in government largesse are illegally siphoned
off every year. As one might guess, the public reaction has been one of
absolute anger and distrust. The legislative response has echoed this
public opinion. Unfortunately, the heated rhetoric often fosters draco-
nian solutions, such as placing welfare children in orphanages, cutting
off aid to legal immigrants, or simply abolishing welfare altogether.
Rather than championing efforts to reduce welfare fraud-thereby
diminishing the demand for ignoble and mean-spirited solu-
tions-welfare advocates have invested time and effort into undermin-
ing the investigatory tools available to law enforcement. In this way,
these organizations are slowly but surely killing the goose that lays the
golden eggs. The final resolution might be to eliminate public assis-
tance programs rather than to countenance unmitigated welfare fraud.
A case in point is the consent walk-throughs conducted by public
assistance fraud investigators of the San Diego District Attorney's Of-
fice. With (and only with) the voluntary consent of the welfare recipi-
ents, these investigators inspect residences to insure eligibility for pub-
lic assistance. Various San Diego area welfare advocates, however, have
* Deputy District Attorney, Office of the San Diego District Attorney. J.D., Stan-
ford Law School; B.S., University of Southern California


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