Oswego County had a string of welfare fraud cases in 2011, as a total of 117 cases were investigated which saved county taxpayers over half a million dollars.
Of the 117 cases, eight of the offenders were arrested and charged with third-degree welfare fraud, third-degree grand larceny and offering a false instrument for filing, all of which are felonies.
Investigator McCann of the Oswego County Department of Social Services said that “99 percent” of those arrested for welfare fraud are charged with those three felonies.
The eight arrested are Mary J. Stone of Mexico, Trisha M. Nash and Diana E. Sacco of Hannibal, Jessica L. Myers, Edward L. Schroeder, Howard S. Fellows, Margaret A. Fellows and Derrick R. Williams Jr. of Oswego.
McCann said that these types of welfare fraud have a wide range.
“You see abuse of food stamps, cash assistance and medical assistance,” he said. “Somebody could be working and not tell us or under report their income as well.”
According to a press release, the total money saved by the investigations by the DSS was $566,916.
“[The money] is not strictly from cases that result in arrests, that’s an overall total,” McCann said. “We also conduct investigations that result in case closings or case denials.”
The cases that result in closings or denials end with the beneficiary’s welfare cut off.
The DSS has many different ways of investigating fraud, including the use of a fraud hotline and internal auditing.
“Our examiners are well-trained,” McCann said. “They make a few background checks to make sure your information is accurate, and they will refer it.”
The DSS also works closely with the Oswego County Sherriff’s Department in investigating and making arrests related to fraud.
“[The DSS] does most of the leg work on the welfare fraud-related investigation,” McCann said. “We do all the background, we gather all of the evidence against someone. We then accuse them of committing a criminal act and turn over the investigation to the sheriff’s investigators.”
The DSS gives the investigation to the sheriff’s office due to the fact that the DSS cannot make arrests, McCann said.
Due to the massive amount of welfare cases over the past year, many changes have been made to prevent fraud from happening in the future, including the reduction of benefits from $3,000 to $1,000, McCann said.
“We created some new regulations and changed some of the ways we do our business,” McCann said. “There’s a new assistant district attorney who is working with us on welfare-related fraud cases to make them happen a little quicker.”
McCann said the DSS is now looking to take criminal action against welfare fraud offenders more than in the past.