MEXICO – Oswego County Department of Social Services staff detected 117 cases of attempted fraud last year, saving county taxpayers $566,916 in avoided costs, Oswego County Legislature Chairman Fred Beardsley announced Wednesday (April 18).
Legislature Chairman Beardsley said the cases involved attempts by people to collect benefits while living in other states, filing for duplicate benefits, not reporting income, and attempting to collect benefits while incarcerated in a correctional facility. In addition, eight people were arrested over the past few weeks and charged with welfare fraud and grand larceny.
The arrests involve the alleged theft of more than $35,000 in overpayments.
“In my State of the County Address earlier this year, I emphasized that detection and prosecution of welfare fraud will be a priority in 2012,” said Legislature Chairman Beardsley. “Our message to those who think that they can use these programs to steal from our taxpayers is simple – we are watching! If you are stealing, you will be caught and you will pay.”
Legislator John Proud, District 7, Mexico, chairman of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, said the DSS staff investigates attempts to obtain fraudulent benefits every day.
“The taxpayers, as well as people who are attempting to defraud them, can be assured that systems are in place to prevent and detect fraud,” he said.
Those arrested face felony charges of welfare fraud, third degree, grand larceny, third degree, and offering a false instrument for filing.
They are Mary J. Stone, 51, of Fraser Road, Bldg. 138, Mexico; Trisha M. Nash, 27, of 235 Stock Road, Hannibal; Jessica L. Myers, 25 and Edward L. Schroeder, 28 both of 5350 State Route 104, Lot 19, Oswego; Howard S. Fellows, 31, of 735 Dutch Ridge Road, Oswego; Margaret A. Fellows, 36, of 735 Dutch Ridge Road, Oswego; Derrick R. Williams Jr., 54, of 38 Birch Lane, Apt. 35B, Oswego; and Diana E. Sacco, 28, 1279 County Route 3, Hannibal.
Social Services Commissioner Gregg Heffner said a number of internal systems are in place at DSS to ensure that benefits are issued to Oswego County residents who are truly entitled to receive them, and to prevent assistance funds from being provided to ineligible individuals.
“The fraud and collections unit have been working diligently to bring money back into the Department of Social Services by pursuing prosecutions and working closely with the DA’s Office and Sheriff’s Office,” said Cheryl Wallace, resource coordinator for the Department of Social Services. “Our goal is to consistently have cases ready for prosecution or administrative hearing each month, hoping to obtain court decisions to disqualify individuals who are attempting to receive benefits fraudulently.”
In a recent letter to Commissioner Heffner, Larry Pittz, Director of Program Integrity for the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, commended the DSS staff for saving the taxpayers nearly $570,000 last year.
“Program integrity initiatives, such as the ‘front end detection system’ and others, play an enormous role in keeping costs down and preventing assistance funds from being provided to ineligible individuals,” said Pittz. “We commend your investigative staff for its efforts and for working together with your eligibility staff to provide the savings to your county, to the State of New York and to the federal government.”
The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee oversees the Department of Social Services.
In addition to Legislator Proud, committee members include vice chairman Ronald Sakonyi, District 5, Constantia; James Karasek, District 22, Granby; Margaret Kastler, District 1, Sandy Creek; Douglas Malone, District 20, Town of Oswego; Morris Sorbello, District 23, Granby; Amy Tresidder, District 16, Oswego; and Terry Wilbur, District 21, Hannibal.
For more information, or to report a suspected case of social services or housing assistance fraud, contact the Investigative Unit at 963-5281.