ROCHESTER – New York State Inspector General Lucy Lang today announced the guilty plea and sentencing of a Monroe County woman on charges that she stole over $30,000 in public assistance benefits.
The defendant, aged 49, of Penfield, N.Y., was sentenced on Tuesday in Rochester City Court, following her previously entered plea on November 7 to Welfare Fraud in the Fifth Degree. She was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to serve 200 hours of community service. The defendant must also make full restitution in the amount of $31,573.
A joint investigation by the Office of the Inspector General and Monroe County Department of Human Services found that Defendant married her husband in May of 2012, after which time she applied for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (also known as food stamps) through the Monroe County Department of Human Services (DHS). In doing so, the defendant failed to report her marriage, that she lived with her husband, or any of the household income received through his employment, which would have impacted her eligibility and/or the amount of benefits to which she would have been entitled.
The defendant recertified her entitlement annually six times, each time fraudulently misrepresenting her marital status, household composition, and combined household income. Notably, in support of her 2013 application, the defendant reported that she was renting a home in the town of Penfield and paying a monthly rent to a named landlord. Upon further investigation, it was determined that the “landlord” she listed in her application was actually her husband, with whom she and her children were living with in the home she purported to rent. As a result of her intentional misrepresentations on the benefit applications, Defendant, between October 2012 and January 2019, obtained $31,573 in SNAP benefits to which she was not entitled.
“Stealing from programs that provide a safety net for those in need victimizes our most vulnerable neighbors and the taxpaying public,” said Inspector General Lang, “every dollar taken by those who lie to obtain public assistance to which they are not entitled is a dollar not going to someone who truly needs it. My office will continue to work tirelessly with our partners to root out this conduct whenever it occurs.”
“The Monroe County District Attorney’s Office is pleased that Erica Betlem is taking responsibility for the fraud she committed against the people of Monroe County,” said Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley. “I want to thank the Inspector General’s Office and Monroe County Department of Human Services Special Investigations Unit for conducting this investigation, which resulted in the identification of over $30,000 of stolen taxpayer dollars. I also want to thank Assistant District Attorney Karina Pinch, for helping to ensure restitution back to the Department of Human Services. These cases are incredibly important to ensure that there are funds available to those who need assistance. Today shows that the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office will not tolerate welfare fraud or any abuse of a system in place to help those in need.”
Monroe County Commissioner of Department of Human Services Thalia Wright said, “I am proud of our team here at Monroe County Department of Human Services who provided details and information to aid in Inspector General Lucy Lang’s investigation. It’s important to ensure that those truly in need receive the vital support from SNAP.”
Inspector General Lang thanked the OIG staff who investigated the case, including Deputy Inspector General for the Western Region Jeff Hagen, Chief of Investigations for the Western Region Charlie Tirone, Investigative Counsel Jill Florkowski, and Investigators Christopher Martello and Amanda Brennan.
Lang also extends her thanks to the Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley and her office for prosecuting this matter, the Monroe County Department of Human Services Commissioner Thalia Wright and her office for their partnership in the investigation, and the New York State Police for their assistance with the arrest.