April 9, 2018
MEXICO - The Oswego County Department of Social Services (DSS) reported 105 cases of people whose applications for public assistance were either denied or withdrawn in 2017. This resulted in $1.1 million in savings of avoided benefits costs for county taxpayers. These cases involved attempts by people to collect benefits that they weren't eligible for.
Legislator Roy E. Reehil, District 5, chairman of the Oswego County Legislature's Human Services Committee, said, "The public needs to know that we are vigilant in our attempts to prevent welfare fraud before it occurs, as well as prosecuting fraud when we detect it. We need county taxpayers to know that this is our highest priority. And anyone who would consider attempting to defraud us should know that too. Our systems to prevent fraud are robust, and misusing the benefits system will end up in your arrest."
The information was part of a report recently presented to the committee by Oswego County Department of Social Services Commissioner Stacy Alvord.
"Our investigations into attempts to obtain fraudulent benefits are ongoing," said Alvord. "They are part of the system to ensure that benefits are issued to Oswego County residents who are entitled to receive them; and prevent them from being provided to those who are ineligible."
"There are certain factors that investigators look at when someone applies to receive benefits," according to Resource Coordinator Dawn Masuicca. "We also follow up on referrals from the public as well as recommendations from state and federal agencies."
Gidget Stevens, director of assistance programs, highlights the significance of cost avoidance. "These are tax dollars that are never paid out because our staff found the discrepancies before any benefits were issued. This saves not only the up-front costs, but the expense of prosecution and recovery."
Last year, four people were prosecuted and convicted of welfare fraud on temporary assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Medicaid. The total money owed back to DSS is $20,184. In addition, 25 cases of intentional program violations were affirmed through administrative disqualification hearings. They involved lesser amounts per case and therefore didn't qualify for prosecution. The recovery amount for those cases is $7,967.
Defendants in these cases have been disqualified from receiving benefits for six to 18 months. They are also required to pay the money back through restitution or other agreements.
The DSS Fraud Investigative Unit works closely with the Oswego County District Attorney's Office to prepare cases for prosecution.
"Our partnership with DSS has grown in recent years as we've worked together to protect the hardworking taxpayers of Oswego County from welfare fraud," said Oswego County District Attorney Gregory S. Oakes. "These efforts have led to the prosecution and conviction of defendants who have obtained public assistance benefits through fraud and their reimbursement of those funds back to the county."
The monies recovered from these cases is returned to the program that was involved such as Temporary Assistance or Medicaid.
The Oswego County Legislature's Human Services Committee oversees the Department of Social Services. In addition to Legislator Reehil, committee members include Vice Chairman Tim Stahl, District 20; Thomas Drumm, District 16; Nathan Emmons, District 15; Daniel T. Farfaglia, District 24; James Karasek, District 22; and Bradley Trudell, District 7.
For more information, or to report a suspected case of social services or housing assistance fraud, contact the Investigative Unit at 315-963-5281.
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