Most of us like to get something for nothing, whether it is a cup of coffee, a pen or the proverbial free lunch.
Some of us go after what we want by clipping coupons, responding to advertisements in the media and on the Internet, or asking complete strangers on the street for their spare change.
Other people steal what they desire.
A recent situation in California would fall into the latter category. It involved a man and his cohorts helping people obtain unemployment and disability benefits to which they were not entitled.
Sophisticated fraud scheme
A judge called it one of the longest and most sophisticated fraud schemes he had ever seen.
The ringleader and his family used companies they controlled to create fake work records for a fee and gave out phony pay stubs to make it look real.
They also coached their clients how to use the phony work records to claim government benefits.
Many of the clients came upon the scheme by accident. They walked into the business operated by the ringleader and his family looking for legitimate work. Instead they were steered in the direction of fraud. No work involved.
By the time the conspiracy was broken up, the defendants created bogus work records for more than 400 people, resulting in some 2,000 fake claims and a government loss of more than $14 million.
This went on for more than 20 years.
The leader of the crime family and some of its members have been arrested, tried and sentenced to prison. How much restitution they owe has yet to be determined.
The government programs that these people have been bleeding are there for a purpose. That purpose is to serve people who are truly in need and who qualify for the benefits in question either through a legitimate work record or else because of genuine poverty.
By taking advantage of these programs, criminals are putting pressure on a system that is underfunded and tightly squeezed to begin with.
Only by rooting out the crooks can we ensure that government programs are there when they are needed by people who qualify through legal means.