Eight Residents Charged with Welfare Fraud in Latest Investigations

MEXICO – Oswego County agencies have recovered nearly $58,000 in welfare fraud since the beginning of the year, thanks to the efforts of the Department of Social Services, District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Office.

So far this year, 16 people have been arrested and charged with welfare fraud.

The most recent arrests took place in June, July and August and involve the alleged thefts of $27,744 in overpayments of Medicaid and food stamp benefits.

Those arrested face felony charges of welfare fraud, third degree, and grand larceny, third degree.

They are Melissa and Tracy Cusson, 101 Cusson Drive, West Monroe; Terry and Kara Pickard, 80 Engles Road, Oswego; John and Tara Barlow, 149 Parkhurst Drive, Oswego; John Russell, Birch Lane, Oswego; and Tammie Russell, Oneida Village, Fulton.

Terry and Kara Pickard, John and Tara Barlow, and John and Tammie Russell also face charges of offering a false instrument for filing, a class E felony.

“This initiative started late last fall,” said Legislature Chairman Fred Beardsley. “The County Legislature and County Administrator worked with the DA’s office to create a part-time assistant DA position that would primarily focus on welfare fraud cases. By cutting back on certain areas within the DA’s existing budget, we were able to create the new position at no additional costs to taxpayers.”

There have been 27 felony arrests since the program started last October, including 11 in 2011, and 16 since January 2012.

Through the shared efforts of DSS, the Sheriff’s Office and the DA’s Office, Oswego County took part in a multi-county welfare fraud “round-up” in late October.

“I am very pleased with the outstanding fraud investigations that DSS is conducting, and I am glad that my office can be a partner in protecting the taxpayers of Oswego County,” said District Attorney Greg Oakes. “We have aggressively worked to recover restitution from defendants to reimburse the county for public assistance benefits that were obtained by fraud. DSS continues to conduct investigations and send cases to the DA’s Office for screening. If we believe the case has been sufficiently developed and legally supports prosecution, we forward the case to the Sheriff’s Department so that an arrest can be made.”

Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd said people need to be aware that investigations are ongoing to prevent people from attempting to defraud the system.

“We will continue to make sure that those people obtaining benefits, who don’t deserve them, will be punished,” said Todd. “We want people to know that we will continue this push to protect the taxpayers’ dollars and make sure that benefits go to those who truly deserve them.”

Legislator John Proud, District 7, Mexico, chairman of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, said the county has developed a number of internal systems to prevent and detect welfare fraud.

“The DSS staff investigates attempts to obtain fraudulent benefits every day,” said Legislator Proud. “The fraud investigators consistently have cases ready for prosecution and administrative hearings in order to obtain court decisions to disqualify individuals and to recover more money. The county is committed to providing benefits to Oswego County residents who are truly entitled to receive them, while at the same time preventing funds from being provided to ineligible individuals.”

In addition to Legislator Proud, members of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee include committee vice chairman Ronald Sakonyi, District 5; James Karasek, District 22; Margaret Kastler, District 1; Douglas Malone, District 20; Morris Sorbello, District 23; Amy Tresidder, District 16; and Terry Wilbur, District 21.

For more information, or to report a suspected case of social services or housing assistance fraud, contact the DSS Investigative Unit at 963-5281.