Criminal Career

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Individuals sometimes find themselves involved in a crime although they never intended to commit one. Others make a career out of committing crime. Our “Fraud of the Day” takes a look at a Westport, New York woman, who had a history of welfare fraud along with her husband. She and her husband committed food stamp fraud, as well as Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) fraud, by underreporting their wages. (They just plain failed to report their income.)

 The woman and her husband were accused of collecting benefits from the Essex County Department of Social Services they were not eligible to receive because they were gainfully employed. The department’s fraud unit discovered that over three years, the woman actually was working for Amtrak while collecting food stamps and HEAP benefits. (HEAP is a utility payment program that offers eligible individuals a credit to their utility bill or to those who heat their home with wood, propane or oil.)

The 62-year-old woman pleaded guilty to welfare fraud and received a one to three-year state prison sentence, which will run concurrently with a previous conviction for filing a false report, which will also require one to three years behind bars. (The two sentences will run consecutively with a requirement of serving a minimum of two years.)  Lucky for her, another eight counts were dropped.

 The Westport woman received $13,184 in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. (She would have never received those benefits if she had been honest about her employment.) The fraudster is required to pay back that amount in restitution in addition to her prison sentence. And, because of her fraudulent acts, she has officially been disqualified from receiving future public assistance benefits. (Fair enough.)

Unfortunately, the New Yorker’s husband, who was also charged with welfare fraud, died before being convicted. (It is likely that the charge will be dismissed since there is no way the deceased can pay back the benefits. The wife is fortunate to not have to pay his part of the fraud bill.)

The woman and her husband made a career out of committing fraud by stealing from government programs that provide help to needy families. While her husband got out of being punished by the justice system, the Essex County Court Judge delivered a formidable blow by ending this woman’s career of crime. (She has been forced into retirement from her life of crime and will spend the next couple of years in the Albion Correctional Facility in Orleans County. Not exactly how she thought she’d be spending her “golden years.”)

 Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, Westport woman sentenced on welfare fraud,” published by The Sun on May 1, 2018.

ELIZABETHTOWN | A Westport woman has been sentenced to serve between one-to-three years in prison and will have to pay back over $13,000 in payments that should have not been received from the Essex County Department of Social Services.

Social Services Director Michael Mascarenas announced Mary J. Kelley of Main Street in Westport received sentencing for two counts: third degree welfare fraud (Class D felony); and first degree filing a false report (Class E felony).