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SIMMONS: Government of D.C. can’t thwart thieves

- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 11, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

D.C. officials are deceiving themselves — and you — if they think the government will be able to outwit larcenous-hearted thieves once its online gambling program is up and running.

Ill back up to give some facts before laying out some case histories.

The D.C. Council and Mayor Vincent C. Gray have made up their minds to implement a first-in-the-nation law that allows government-sanctioned Internet gambling.

Among the legal stipulations are mandates that only bona fide D.C. residents will be allowed to make wagers.

But what's not taken into account is that thieves don't necessarily predicate their moves on the law; they keep their eyes instead on the booty.

Lets take unemployment benefits as a case in point: From November 2004 to September 2007, a woman used stolen Social Security numbers to receive nearly $78,000 in unemployment benefits.

More recently, the D.C. Office of the Inspector General reported to the mayor that from January to Sept. 6 of this year, seven people, including a D.C. Public Schools employee, fraudulently received more than $94,500 in jobless claims.

And how's this for a gotcha? The D.C. Department of Employment Services, which dispenses unemployment benefits, was snookered by one of its own employees, who fraudulently received more than $9,000 in benefits.

But wait, there's more.

Even the Office of the Inspector General is red-faced by a case in which one of its employees aided and abetted a woman in creating and submitting false documents to prove D.C. residency.

Talk about gaming the system.

The amount of money stolen from D.C. residents in these fraud cases isn't substantial, but think about other publicly funded programs that have not been cited here, from Medicaid and Medicare, health care and insurance to welfare, public schools and food programs.

And then there's the money needed to pay for the enormous bureaucracy responsible for regulating, investigating and prosecuting people who break the law is a mighty and constant tug on taxpayers' wallets.

Moreover, the moral of the gambling story has costs, too.

Gambling addiction, like substance abuse, doesn't discriminate.

People of all stripes take a chance on the wheels of (mis)fortune everyday by playing legitimate games of chance such as lotteries, horse races, bingo and poker, and by partaking in illegitimate ones, such as back-alley craps games.

Still, the real losers are taxpayers who must pick up the tab for the illegal and socioeconomic consequences.

Our priests and preachers are expected to take a stand against gambling and other vices, but their heads are seemingly in the clouds, too.

Congress already has placed its bet, having approved the D.C. online gambling program this spring and effectively agreeing with D.C. officials that the city can police itself.

What a joke.

The question is whether D.C. lawmakers and members of Congress have their pockets lined with "political support" from larcenous lobbyists.

Or have the people who constitute a moral majority been bought off as well? The unemployment thieves prove you needn't have a K Street address to rip off the District.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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