In New Jersey, lying to get your child a free school lunch may leave you facing criminal fraud charges.
Recently, 100 individuals, 83 of whom were public employees, were caught lying about their incomes in order to secure their children a free school lunch. The New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller (OSC), an office responsible for supervising the quality of financial reporting for given organizations, documented the alleged fraud while investigating the free lunch programs over a three-year span.
As part of the USDA’s National School Lunch program, New Jersey schools provide either free or reduced-price meals to students in need, based on their parent or guardian’s reported income. The OSC stated that parents were made aware when signing up for the free lunches that giving false information could result in criminal penalties.
The combined underreported income over the past three years has totaled to more than $13 million, forcing the OCS to refer the 100 guilty individuals to the Division of Criminal Justice for prosecution.
Certain individuals are not taking the fraudulent charges without a fight. One school board member from Pleasantville who was found underreporting her household income by nearly $180,000 became defensive when questioned by the comptrollers, claiming that her income was “none of the school district’s…business.”
Governor Chris Christie calls the OSC report’s findings “absurd and obscene,” and called for the immediate dismissal and prosecution of the culpable employees.