Seattle's KING5 has won the Peabody Award for a series exposing fraud in the state's taxpayer-funded public-assistance programs.

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KING5 has won its first Peabody Award in 22 years for its investigative series, “Your Dime, Their Crime,” which documented rampant fraud in the state’s taxpayer-funded public-assistance programs and prompted widespread changes, including creation of a $5 million fraud-prevention unit to investigate welfare and food stamp cheats.

Thirty-eight winners of the awards for excellence and public service in radio and television broadcasting were announced Wednesday for work done in 2011. The Peabody Awards, now in their 71st year, will be presented at an awards luncheon May 21 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

KING reporter Chris Ingalls, photographer and editor Steve Douglas, executive producer Kellie Cheadle and executive news director Mark Ginther began their reports in September 2010 after receiving a news tip from a welfare recipient. The man had reported instances of food-stamp fraud to the state Department of Social and Health Services and was frustrated by the lack of a response, so called KING5 investigators, Cheadle recalled Wednesday.

Other tips followed, and along with documents obtained through public-record requests and hidden-camera footage, KING5 was able to show that state officials ignored blatant and widespread fraud, including one man who attempted to sell his electronic-benefits card on Craigslist, Cheadle said. The series of 20-plus stories ran through July.

Though the changes it eventually brought about were extremely satisfying, “at first it was maddening,” Cheadle said. “… Money was just being thrown out the window. I couldn’t believe how blatant it was — and the government knew.”