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11 charged with public assistance fraud

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Because of an investigation coordinated through law enforcement agencies throughout Franklin County, on Thursday officials acted on warrants issued for 11 people for alleged public assistance fraud, according to a news release from the county District Attorney’s office.

“Franklin County Department of Social Services (DSS) has been conducting an extensive investigation into alleged fraud related to food stamps, medical assistance, day care assistance, temporary assistance, [and] Medicaid,” reads the release.

The warrants were issued earlier this week, according to the release, and arrests began Thursday morning. It was a coordinated effort between county District Attorney Investigators, county Sheriff’s Deputies, county Fraud Investigators, New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), Malone-based New York State Troopers, Malone Village Police, and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police.

By 3 p.m. Thursday, seven individuals were arrested while two made arrangements to surrender to law enforcement officials, the release states. Another two are outside Franklin County, according to the release, and warrants have been filed.

The following are the 11 defendants who were the subject of Thursday’s efforts:

■ Shannon Allen of Malone was charged with third-degree grand larceny for alleged medical assistance fraud totaling $3,793.72. She is planned to surrender to law enforcement.

■ Timothy Allen of Malone was charged with third-degree grand larceny for alleged medical assistance fraud totaling $3,793.72. He is planned to surrender to law enforcement.

■ Tammie Benware of Malone was charged with fifth-degree welfare fraud, petit larceny, and nine counts of first-degree offering a false instrument. She is alleged to have fraudulently collected $663.17 in day care assistance. Benware was remanded to Franklin County Jail in lieu of $1,000 cash bail.

■ Shawn Dustin of Dickinson Center was charged with fifth-degree welfare fraud, petit larceny and first-degree offering a false instrument. He is alleged to have fraudulently collected $275 in temporary assistance. He was remanded to Franklin County Jail in lieu of $500 bail.

■ Jacklyn Krasselt of Malone was charged with fifth-degree welfare fraud, petit larceny and seven counts of first-degree offering a false instrument. She is alleged to have fraudulently collected $567.85 in day care assistance.

■ MaryEllen Farr of Utica is charged with two counts of forgery. A warrant for her arrest was issued.

■ Stephanie Lopez of Watertown was charged with fourth-degree welfare fraud and fourth-degree grand larceny. She is alleged to have fraudulently collected $1,280.73 in temporary assistance. Lopez was remanded to Franklin County Jail in lieu of $1,500 bail.

■ Tanya Robistow of Malone was charged with fifth-degree welfare fraud, third-degree grand larceny, misuse of food stamps, and two counts of first-degree offering a false instrument. She is alleged to have fraudulently collected $7,146.59 in food stamps and Medicaid.

■ David Slyman Jr. of Fort Covington was charged with third-degree welfare fraud, grand larceny, misuse of food stamps and two-counts of first-degree offering a false statement. Franklin County Court Judge Robert G. Main Jr. released Slyman under the supervision of probation.

■ Steven Yelich of Malone was charged with misuse of food stamps and petit larceny. He is alleged to have fraudulently collected $800 in food stamps. He was remanded to Franklin County Jail in lieu of $1,000 bail.

As a result of the investigation, another 14 individuals signed “voluntary disqualification agreements,” as stated in the release. Under these agreements, the release notes that public assistance payments were stopped and individuals are required to pay back what is owed to DSS.

Law enforcement officials had much praise for the investigation’s outcome.

New York State Police Captain Robert LaFountain commended county District Attorney Derek Champagne for coordinating this effort to find out who was misusing public assistance, according to the release.

“The arrest of those who fraudulently obtained public assistance benefits once again shows the resolve of our law enforcement community and partners to identify, investigate and bring to justice those engaged in this criminal activity,” he stated in the release.

County Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill also commented on the matter.

“The fraudulent use of taxpayers’ money will not be tolerated and I will continue to assist in any way possible other departments or agencies in stopping this kind of alleged fraud and waste,” he said in the release.

Champagne said he is concerned the investigation only uncovers the surface of the “frauds being committed against taxpayers.”

“This investigation revealed others who appear to believe social assistance is a way of life and not temporary assistance,” he stated in the release. “The discovery of fraudulent tax returns associated with this investigation is leading us to even more complex frauds being committed against not only the county but the state and federal government.”

Champagne added that he believes that to combat fraud, county residents should report it if they suspect it in their community.

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