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Arrests Follow Rensselaer County DSS Fraud Unit Investigation

Several people have been arrested after an investigation into welfare fraud in Rensselaer County.

Officials say a multi-agency probe into the theft of funds from the Rensselaer County Department of Social Services has resulted in 19 arrests. Warrants were issued for seven others.

Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin says the arrests send an important message: that fraud will not be tolerated.    “Were not going to put up with this. This is hard earned money of the taxpayers. It's completely unfair for people to take advantage of a system that is already pretty generous to begin with, so for folks that are taking advantage of that system, it's an affront to the hard working people of Rensselaer County.”

Rensselaer County D.A. Mary Pat Donnelly wants the public to know the fraud investigation is an ongoing process.  "These come in through tips. They also come in through internal investigations. Any types of red flags that we see, we investigate them and make sure that the people that are claiming these benefits are not entitled to them before we go forward, so. There were, I believe, 26 individuals and we arrested 19. There are seven still at large. Most of them are facing felonies, that could be in excess of a year in jail. And one of our focuses is going to be to recoup the money, restitution, to bring it back to the county so that it can be dispersed to those who deserve it."

Suspected cases of fraud include daycare, cash and SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps.

Donnelly says three full-time and many more part-time investigators worked on this case, which involves $56,700 in misdirected benefits.

It follows a sweep in October involving 39 people who were alleged to have stolen more than $100,000 in benefits.   "If you see something, you know someone is receiving benefits and it just doesn't make sense to you, it needs to be brought to our attention so that we can fully investigate it."

McLaughlin says there are new ways for citizens to share information:   "Which is 'rennscofraudtips@dfa.state.ny.us ' - that email will be up and running as of tomorrow as I understand it, where folks can report any tips that they may have or fraud that they may suspect. We'll also have a phone number that we'll be rolling out in the coming days and weeks that'll make it even easier for folks to report this."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.