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Authorities charge 23 in welfare fraud crackdown

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MALONE - Malone Village Police, New York State Police, Saranac Lake Village Police and investigators for the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office began making arrests and executing warrants Thursday for 23 people across the county accused of various frauds related to Franklin County Department of Social Services benefits.

Eleven people were taken into custody by Thursday and 12 warrants are still outstanding

State Police and Malone police were the lead agencies in the warrant sweep, and the Department of Social Services investigators conducted the investigations and obtained the warrants. The arrests were part of a larger ongoing investigation involving almost 60 people who have been collecting various, allegedly fraudulent, benefits through the Department of Social Services over the past 18 months, according to a news release from District Attorney Derek Champagne.

“Many of these benefits are supposed to be temporary, not a way of life. The goal of “living off the system” needs to end, and these recent arrests are unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg of the fraud which we believe is being perpetrated against the system. Our system was created to help those in need, not to be a game to be manipulated,” Mr. Champagne said in the release.

The investigations by DSS also revealed fraudulent tax refunds in which tax services assisted individuals in filing returns related to self-employment with no documentation whatsoever that these individuals have ongoing businesses. The filer would then receive a refund having paid no taxes and never having had an actual business. At least six individuals are suspected of engaging in this conduct and that portion of the investigation is continuing, the release said.

DSS Commissioner Lesley Lyon stated, “The Department of Social Services receives many reports of possible welfare fraud. In some instances, these reports do result in a person being found guilty of some kind of fraud, but they are given the opportunity to sign a voluntary disqualification and/or pay restitution instead of criminal prosecution. The Department of Social Services has had approximately 30 individuals sign voluntary disqualifications in the past six months, and many individuals sign voluntary repayment agreements. So even though you may not see an individual’s name in the paper for a welfare fraud arrest, there may have been other arrangements made. Please continue to report possible welfare fraud issues to the Department of Social Services. The phone numbers are 481-1804 and 481-1777.”

The warrants issued, charges and bail requested are as follows:

■ Jonathan Bashaw, 28, of Chateaugay, was arrested on charges of misuse of food stamps, third-degree grand larceny, third-degree welfare fraud and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. Bashaw is accused of fraudulently obtaining $714 in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps) benefits and $4,957 in temporary assistance. Bail recommendation $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond.

■ Rick Carley, 22, of Burke, was arrested on a charge of third-degree larceny. Carley is accused of fraudulently obtaining $3430.92 in medical assistance. Bail recommendation $3,500 cash or $7,000 bond.

■ Danielle Chilcoat, 30, of Moira, was arrested on a charge of third-degree grand larceny. Chilcoat is accused of fraudulently obtaining $4,075.84 in medical assistance. Bail recommendation $2,000 cash or $4,000 bond.

■ Paul Chilcoat, 36, of Moira, was arrested on a charge of third-degree grand larceny. Chilcoat is accused of fraudulently obtaining $4,075.84 in medical assistance. Bail recommendation $2,000 cash or $4,000 bond.

■ Frederick Decker III, 46, of Burke, was arrested on charges of third-degree grand larceny and first-degree offering false instrument. Decker is accused of fraudulently obtaining $1,852.50 in medical transportation. Bail recommendation $2,000 cash or $4,000 bond.

■ Angela Florence, 41, of Malone, was arrested on a charge of first-degree offering a false instrument. Florence is accused of fraudulently obtaining temporary assistance. Bail recommendation $1,000 cash or $2,000 bond.

■ Cayla Martin, 27, of Saranac Lake, was arrested on a charge of third-degree grand larceny. Martin is accused of fraudulently obtaining $5,640.8O in day care. Bail recommendation $500 cash or $1,000 bond.

■ Gene Rosa, 48, of Malone, was arrested on a charge of fourth-degree grand larceny. Rosa is accused of fraudulently obtaining $1,917.16 in Medicaid benefits. Bail recommendation $2,000 cash or $4,000 bond.

■ Lisa Simonson, 48, of Saranac Lake, was arrested on a charge of petit larceny. Simonson is accused of fraudulently obtaining $890.62 in medical assistance. Bail recommendation $500 cash or $1,000 bond.

■ Joanne Sutton, 63, of Tupper Lake, was arrested on charges of third-degree welfare fraud and third-degree grand larceny. Sutton is accused of fraudulently obtaining $2,845 in temporary assistance and $357.66 in medical assistance. Bail recommendation $2,000 cash or $4,000 bond.

The name of the 11th person arrested Thursday was withheld pending an ongoing investigation. The person, who lives in Malone, was arrested on a charge of fourth-degree grand larceny for allegedly fraudulently obtaining $1,368 in temporary assistance. Released under probation supervision.

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