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A state audit today found Massachusetts has handed out $18 million in “questionable public assistance benefits” over the past few years, including welfare to more than 1,160 people who were either dead or using a deceased person’s Social Security number.

The report, which covered food stamps, cash, and other benefits to low-income families, estimated that recipients using a dead person’s Social Security number alone received at least $2.4 million in between July 2010 and April 2012. It also flagged another $15 million in suspicious transactions from electronic benefit cards during the two-and-a-half-year period the auditor reviewed.

State Auditor Suzanne Bump said she thought the bulk of the $1.7 billion a year in welfare programs the state provides each year was likely spent appropriately, but said she was disturbed that the state did not catch so many obvious signs of abuse or waste.

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