By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
FONDA -- Seven people were recently arrested for welfare fraud, the Montgomery County Department of Social Services Welfare Fraud Investigative Unit announced on Wednesday.
They're arrests that don't allege big dollar signs worth of fraud, but that's because the unit has been focusing on prevention, said Supervising Inv. Michael J. Villa.
"A lot of people like seeing the attention grabbers of big amounts of money, but we're working to stop the fraud before money gets out the door. That can stop six months, at least, worth of benefits, and it's better than letting it occur because it's difficult to recoup the money later, even with the arrest."
In the three groups of arrests announced this year, more and more of the charges have been tied to invalid employment search forms that are necessary for clients to submit in order to comply with the terms of their benefits.
Villa said clients accused of filing false instruments in those cases aren't physically going to places to apply for employment like they're supposed to.
"They might go through the Yellow Pages and look at local businesses, and write down that they went to Kentucky Fried Chicken or something to apply, but when we follow up with human resources, they say they never put in an application," Villa said. "It takes some work to follow up and get statements from the human resource departments, but again, it's about preventing the money from going out on a false premise."
Social Services Department Commissioner Michael McMahon said early detection is key, and in addition to working from tips from the public, the social welfare examiners have been diligent in taking their suspicions to Villa's department.
"We save money by having the examiners ensure there are quality applications," McMahon said. "The process starts here, and I think they've done a good job."
McMahon said the purchase of investigative software equipment from Lexus-Nexus has helped "connect the dots when we're not sure about something, and let's us look a little deeper. I think we've gotten our money back out of it."
According to the resolution that authorized the software purchase, it allows the user to instantly authenticate the identities of individuals, employers and businesses, and verifies essential personal information such as both past and present name, address, birthday, Social Security Number, Federal Identification Number, and the history of an individual's places of employment.
"It reveals the connections between individuals, assets and employers in order to evaluate potential fraud," the resolution states. "Because of its fast, robust, detailed reporting features, it explores the connections between people, businesses, assets, and locations that would ordinarily take days or weeks to link. It also keeps track of accounts and notifies the user whenever a new telephone, address, or bankruptcy filing occurs, which helps the department detect fraud before it is too late."
The arrests were made possible with the cooperation of the office of District Attorney James E. "Jed" Conboy, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, and the Amsterdam Police Department.
"The district attorney has always been extremely cooperative, and we have great working relationships with the police departments," Villa said. "We all work together."
All subjects are scheduled to return to Mohawk town court on Dec. 4 and Dec. 5 at 6 p.m.
The following welfare fraud arrests were announced Wednesday by the Montgomery County Department of Social Services Welfare Fraud Investigative Unit, in conjunction with the District Attorney's Office, Sheriff's Office and Amsterdam Police Department:
* Helen Emerson, 25, of 2612 Route 8, Lot 21, was arrested and charged with third-degree welfare fraud and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. She allegedly received $4,960 in food stamps she wasn't eligible for, as she failed to report she was working.
* James Evans Jr., 45, of 613 Oswegatchie Road, Palatine Bridge, was charged with offering a false instrument for filing because he allegedly failed to accurately report his household composition.
* Krista Moore, 25, of 409 Progress Road, Gloversville, was charged with offering a false instrument for filing in submitting false information about her household composition, reports said.
* Antwan Deloatch, 36, of 51 Vanderveer St., Amsterdam, was charged with offering a false instrument for filing, because he allegedly submitted false employment documents necessary to comply with benefit requirements.
* Nichole Smith, 27, of 32 Hancock St., Fort Plain, was charged with fourth-degree welfare fraud. She collected $1,371 in benefits she was not entitled to receive because her household composition and income were inaccurately reported, officials said.
* Beth Horender, 28, of 11 Old Meadow Road, St. Johnsville, was charged with fourth-degree welfare fraud, and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. She reportedly failed to list both the correct household income and composition, and subsequently received $1,080 in food stamps she was not entitled to.
* Stacy Dillenbeck, 28, of 36 Webster St., Apt. B, Fort Plain, was charged with offering a false instrument for filing, because she allegedly submitted false employment documents necessary to comply with benefit requirements.