(WKTV) - U.S. Marshalls, State Police and several other law enforcement agencies hit Oneida County's streets at 7:30 Thursday morning, more than 20 arrest warrants in hand, in order to make a dent in welfare fraud.

"Operation Tax Burden" targeted people receiving county, state and even federal benefits for which they were not eligible, amounting to the theft of more than $36,000.

"Generally we're talking about people who've indicated to the Department of Social Services that they're not working and they have no income and yet through the investigation we find that they do have income, unreported income and it makes them uneligible to some degree," says Oneida County Assistant District Attorney Bernard Hyman.

Hyman says such theft not only involves ripping off hard-earned taxpayer money; it hurts those whom public assistance was intended to help.

"It's all taxpayer money and again we always talk about these programs are intended and designed to help people who are in need of help and when you have people out there taking advantage of the programs they're not eligible for, that's less to go toward the needy and that's something that comes directly out of the taxpayer's pocket."

How were the roughly 23 individuals caught? Hyman says that this is one instance where people who observe a crime being committed are not hesitant to report it. "There are other taxpayers who are upset about it. People often call us and report they know of someone who is receiving benefits wrongfully and for some reason that bothers people," says Hyman.

Those arrested today were arraigned in Utica City Court, where not guilty pleas are the norm at this early stage. Many were charged with grand larceny, depending on the dollar amount of the theft. Hyman says restitution will be made part of any sentence upon conviction.