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Texas governor draws fire for arming fraud unit with guns, tactical gear

Critics question whether that money could be better spent on computers to help root out Medicaid fraud

During his 14-year tenure as Texas Attorney General, now-Gov. Greg Abbott pushed to arm the office's police force with assault rifles and tactical gear, a move that is now drawing criticism from those who say that money could be better spent on fraud-prevention measures.

In 2014, Abbott spent $68,000 on ammunition, including hollow-point bullets, to outfit a police force that deals primarily with white-collar criminals, according to The Dallas Morning News. An attorney general officer has only fired a pistol once in the last five years and it was unrelated to his duties as a fraud investigator, the newspaper reported.

That kind of spending has drawn the ire of critics like Democratic Rep. Garnet Coleman, who told The Dallas Morning News that "a computer, as a tool, is better than a gun" for investigating Medicaid fraud. A recent state law approved by Abbot will provide raises to the growing police force, but Coleman says there was very little discussion about whether the weaponry and subsequent training is necessary for officers investigating fraud schemes.

In an editorial, The Dallas Morning News also criticized the attorney general's spending on assault rifles and tactical gear.

"Medicaid fraud, and other so-called white-collar offenses, are no laughing matter, but critics rightly point out that computers and human brains, rather than Glocks and AR-15s, are generally more effective crime-fighting tools in this arena," the newspaper stated.

Although this is the first time critics have raised concerns about state spending on white-collar crime investigators, last year the Texas Health and Human Services Commission navigated a barrage of criticism for its approach to Medicaid fraud enforcement. Newly appointed Inspector General Stuart Bowen aimed to alter the state's reputation concerning fraud enforcement following a no-bid contract with an analytics frim, and in August, the state passed a law aimed at improving Medicaid fraud investigations.

To learn more:
- here's the Dallas Morning News story
- read the Dallas Morning News editorial

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