Bill Comes After Audit Found Hundreds of Claimants Using Questionable Social Security Numbers
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Raj Mukherji and Angelica Jimenez to combat lottery fraud by making it a fourth-degree crime to use a fake Social Security number to collect lottery winnings was approved 74-0 by the full Assembly on Thursday. The bill has cleared the Assembly and the Senate and now goes to the Governor’s desk for consideration.
“The fraudulent use of Social Security numbers may prevent appropriate taxes and other debt and liabilities from being collected accurately or at all,” said Quijano (D-Union). “The purpose of this bill is to deter individuals from providing false information when claiming lottery winnings. If the state lottery is to remain a valuable service, its credibility must be impeccable, and that means ensuring lottery winnings are properly collected.”
The bill (A-4469) comes after an audit of the Division of the State Lottery from July 1, 2013 to August 31, 2014 found 680 claimants provided questionable Social Security numbers when collecting lottery winnings of $600 or more. The audit also revealed that the lottery missed out on recovering $890,000 that winners owed in taxes and other obligations for the fiscal year that ended last June.
“Using fake Social Security numbers to evade debt and liability collections on lottery winnings means a dead-beat dad, for example, can avoid having his winnings allocated for crucial child support,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “This hurts families and the state and we need to send a stronger message that it won’t be tolerated.”
“So many worthwhile programs benefit from lottery proceeds – seniors, veterans, schools – all of which lose out if people are able to scam the system,” said Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson). “Nearly a million dollars was lost last year that could have benefited these programs. It’s time to crack down harder on this fraud.”
The audit also noted that forty-six of these claimants used Social Security numbers of deceased individuals with different names than the claimants.
Under the bill, anyone found guilty of this type of crime would face up to 18 months in prison and a fine up to $10,000 under a fourth degree crime.
The bills clarifies that nothing in the legislation limits the authority or discretion of the State to charge or prosecute any person for theft under N.J.S.2C:20-3, theft by deception under N.J.S.2C:20-4, or for any other offense.
The Assembly Tourism Gaming and Arts Committee approved the legislation in June.