Modified: June 14, 2017 3:00pm
Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn and NYS Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott announce the arrest of three women on welfare fraud charges, accused of collecting food stamps and Medicaid benefits while working as caregivers for an elderly West Seneca woman.
“These benefits are for those in need and when they are abused, the taxpayers in New York are the ones who get cheated, “says DA Flynn. “Our office is working hard to make sure the welfare system is operating properly.”
“Through a years-long scheme, these three defendants earned income from steady employment and then brazenly padded their pockets with public benefits meant only for those most in need of government assistance. Simply stated, they claimed they were indigent when indeed they were not, leaving taxpayers paying for a six-figure fraud,” said Inspector General Leahy Scott.
49-year-old Suzanne Smith of Buffalo was charged with Welfare Fraud in the Second Degree, Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and 10 counts of Offering a False Instrument in the First Degree. It is alleged that Ms. Smith lied on her Department of Social Services application and re-certification applications, specifically stating that she had no income while she was being paid as a caregiver for the 105-year-old woman. Ms. Smith is accused of lying on 10 separate re-certification applications to DSS, resulting in $51,462.68 in fraudulent benefits.
Investigators also looked into the other two home healthcare aids who worked for the elderly woman and found similar action by 30-year-old Michelle Dudek of Buffalo and 44-year-old Kelly Foss of Alden.
Dudek was charged with Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and 11 counts of Offering a False Instrument in the First Degree. It is alleged Dudek collected $21,616.58 in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and Medicaid benefits that she was not entitled to receive.
The third aid, Kelly Foss, is charged with Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and 4 counts of Offering a False Instrument in the First Degree. She is accused of receiving SNAP benefits in the amount of $34,155.00 that she was not entitled to receive.
Investigators say the total fraud for the three home healthcare aids amounts to $107,234.26.
DA Flynn commends the NYS Inspector General’s Office and the Erie County Department of Social Services for their outstanding investigative work. If convicted of the charges, Suzanne Smith could face a maximum of 5 to 15 years in prison, and Michelle Dudek and Kelly Foss could face a maximum of up to 7 years in prison.
“It is a priority of my office to protect the integrity of government assistance programs to help ensure the continued availability of a critical safety net for the most vulnerable,” says Inspector General Leahy Scott. “Only through law enforcement partnerships such as the one between my office and District Attorney Flynn, can we successfully move forward with these important cases.”
“This case is another example of the strong partnership between the District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Social Services Special Investigation Division,” says Erie County Social Services Commissioner Dr. Albert Dirschberger. “When individuals abuse the welfare system, they steal from taxpayers and from those who are truly in need. We will continue to work with the District Attorney to ensure those individuals face severe consequences for their actions.”
Assistant District Attorney Robin J. Deubler of the DA’s Special Investigations and Prosecutions Bureau is prosecuting the case.
As are all persons accused of a crime, the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.