Surveillance catches people in the act of defrauding disability fund

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's a lifeline for persons who are disabled, but thousands of con artists are trying to take advantage of the program.

And it's costing taxpayers' money.

A relatively new program that's run by the Office of the Inspector General for Social Security already has saved local taxpayers more than $45 million.

Each year the United States gives more than $175 billion in Social Security funds to people on disability. But the Kansas City Cooperative Disability Investigations, or CDI program, says not everyone applying for, or getting a piece of that money, is disabled.

And it's got the undercover video to prove it.

"There's always fraud involved when there's money being handed out," said Troy Turk.

Turk is the special agent in charge of Kansas City's Office of Inspector General CDI program.

Turk showed FOX 4 undercover video taken by his office in conjunction with two officers from the Kansas City Police Department dedicated to the program.

The video shows people right here in the metro who claim to be so impaired by a disability, they can't work. People who are applying for payouts from Social Security's disability benefits.

People like a 32-year-old woman who applied for disability based on chronic pain syndrome she claimed left her unable to walk without a permanent limp, or move without pain.

"Look, she says that she can't do anything and she's running across the field," Turk explained as the video played.

Or there's a 37-year-old who filed an application alleging she has difficulty dressing herself, walking and sitting.  Investigators caught the woman lifting a motorized wheelchair into the back of her car.

"This is just one piece of the evidence, and it's a powerful piece," Turk said.

Also caught, a 40-year-old man who Turk says started receiving disability in 2002, claiming his disease affects all possible mental and physical activities.

The man is caught on surveillance buying a cane before a doctor's appointment, limping into the office, before returning the cane.

Turk and the CDI program helped deny the two women, among many others, those disability payments.  The man was forced to pay back the $11,000 he had received plus more than $80,000 in penalties.

"For someone to commit fraud and possibly keep the money out of the hands of people who need it the most, it's disturbing," Turk said.

In 2010 Turk's Office of the Inspector General partnered with Kansas City police, the Social Security Administration and others to stop fraudulent claims.

"Most of the time there's no remorse. There's none of that. People don't feel remorse about stealing money from the government," Turk said.

But Turks says it's not the government from which these people are stealing.

"You're actually stealing from your neighbors, your families, your friends. They are actually stealing from the trust fund that was built up by the American people," he said.

To date Turk says the Kansas City CDI has closed more than 700 cases and saved metro taxpayers more than $45 million.​

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