A man wanted for attempted murder, kidnapping and possession of a weapon in South Carolina was receiving New York State benefits. This fact was discovered about two weeks ago when police investigated Edward Lamar Moses in Oswego County. They did a background check and found there was a warrant out for his arrest. He reportedly identified himself to police with a New York State benefits card.
My question is how did a man wanted for attempted murder in another state obtain benefits here so easily? Since learning of this case, I have discovered that background checks are not regularly performed on those applying for benefits. I’m not talking about screening applicants for past criminal history. Those people have presumably gone through the justice system. I do, however, believe we should at least screen applicants to make sure there are not known fleeing felons trying to hide out in our communities at the expense of taxpayer dollars.
There is a question, on page 12 of the long benefits application that asks the applicant directly if they or someone in their household is a known fleeing felon. This is not enough to protect our communities from people who may be on the lam. It only makes sense: If law enforcement is trying to apprehend someone with charges alleged against them then we, as a state, should collaborate with other state agencies to help keep our families, children and communities safer.
I have reached out to the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner to see what can be done from a regulatory standpoint to provide background checks. I am not advocating for anything extensive, but I think a basic search through the FBI records that would indicate any outstanding warrants should be part of the Department of Social Service’s protocol.
I am also concerned about the state’s ability to recoup monies paid to fleeing felons. For example, if someone is convicted of welfare fraud, they can be subject to pay the state back three times that of which they collected, dating back to the time they began receiving benefits. The same penalties do not apply to fleeing felons. Currently, as the law is written, fleeing felons only have to pay back monies paid to them after it was discovered they were indeed a fleeing felon. This is incongruent. I am proposing legislation to change this practice and hopefully prevent future fleeing felons from obtaining benefits so easily.
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