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Welfare fraud sum may set new Fulton County record

Saturday, November 3, 2012
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— Nine Fulton County residents are accused of collecting $106,000 in public assistance benefits they were not entitled to, one of the largest fraud totals in years, according to the Fulton County Department of Social Services Investigative Unit.

Kristina Ruggeri, a DSS investigator, said the total is the largest the unit has uncovered to date. The unit issues quarterly investigative reports into public assistance fraud. The latest report covers August through October.

“This is on track to beat all,” Ruggeri said. “It is a lot of money for Fulton County, but we are being very aggressive on welfare fraud.”

Charged were:

• Deborah Lux, 35, and Bryan Lux, 43, both of Broadalbin. They were arrested Sept. 28 and charged with offering a false instrument for filing, welfare fraud and grand larceny. They allegedly failed to report income on their applications for temporary assistance, Medicaid and food stamps. The couple received $13,465 in food stamps, $29,586 in Medicaid benefits and $1,335 in HEAP benefits between March 2009 and April 2012. They were sent to the Fulton County jail in lieu of $15,000 cash bail each.

• Sherri Salvione, 45, of Gloversville. She was arrested Oct. 12 and charged with offering a false instrument for filing, welfare fraud and grand larceny. She allegedly failed to report a household member on her applications for assistance. She is accused of collecting $1,666 in temporary assistance benefits, $30,532 in food stamps and $1,100 in HEAP benefits between April 2006 and September 2011. She was sent to the Fulton County jail on $5,000 cash bail.

• Allison Sturm, 23, of Gloversville. She was arrested Aug. 30 on charges of offering a false instrument for filing and petty larceny. She allegedly failed to report a household member on her application for temporary assistance. She is accused of receiving $344 in unauthorized benefits.

• Marsha Tiano, 62, of Gloversville. She was arrested Oct. 12 on charges of offering a false instrument for filing, welfare fraud, grand larceny and obtaining public assistance by fraud. She allegedly failed to report rental assistance payments received by her household. She is accused of collecting $442 in temporary assistance benefits and $11,820 in food stamps between February 2007 and July 2012.

• Tabitha Hepner, 27, of Gloversville. She was arrested Oct. 22 and charged with offering a false instrument for filing, welfare fraud and grand larceny. She allegedly applied for food stamps benefits for individuals who did not reside in her household and allegedly collected $6,008 in food stamps between July 1 and Wednesday.

• Autumn Luft, 34, of Gloversville. She was arrested Oct. 22 and charged with offering a false instrument for filing, welfare fraud and grand larceny. She allegedly failed to report child support income when she applied for food stamps and HEAP benefits. She is accused of collecting $4,221 in food stamps and $400 in HEAP benefits between Jan. 18 and July 31.

• Stacy Rachon, 33, of Stratford. She was arrested Oct. 30 and charged with offering a false instrument for filing, welfare fraud and grand larceny. She allegedly failed to report income on her application for assistance. She is accused of collecting $5,712 in food stamps between Sept. 1, 2011, and Feb. 28, 2012.

• Victoria Horton, 38, of Broadalbin. She was arrested Thursday and charged with offering a false instrument for filing and petty larceny. She allegedly falsified her application for assistance. She is accused of receiving $880 in food stamps between Jan. 19 and May 31.

The county DSS unit also disqualified eight people each from receiving food stamps for 12 months.

These cases involved $10,782 in overpaid benefits and resulted in $13,536 in program savings.

Ruggeri said the county seeks restitution from anyone convicted of public assistance fraud. Those convicted are also disqualified from receiving benefits for a specified period.

“We do try to recover it through payments through probation, cash payments, or we will recoup from their benefits if they are still eligible,” Ruggeri said.

In some cases, suspects may have collected benefits for years before being detected. Ruggeri said the DSS depends on tips, random evaluations of assistance applications and state reports to find people abusing the system.

“That is why the tip line is important. We get a lot of calls. We have had 869 complaints since September. We do look at each complaint that comes in,” she said.

The number for the tip line is 736-5620.

Ruggeri said the Fulton County Welfare Fraud Task Force Team has additional arrests pending. The team consists of the DSS, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office and the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office.

 
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comments

November 4, 2012
9:43 a.m.
irene58 says...

Sometime, I'd like to see a breakdown of what is actually recouped.....

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