ALBANY – As part of efforts to combat the exploitation of New Yorkers with identity theft and fraud schemes relating to benefits and insurance, New York State Inspector General Lucy Lang announced that she is appointing Kristin Abreu as Attorney-in-Charge for Welfare Fraud, a new position in the Offices of the Inspector General (OIG). Abreu will serve as the Inspector General’s subject matter expert for welfare and benefits fraud, supervise all statewide investigations, serve as a primary point of contact for external agencies, and oversee internal and external training.
Abreu’s appointment marks a return to OIG, where she previously served as an Investigative Counsel, before leaving in 2019 to join the Office of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector General (MTA IG), where she has been serving as a Senior Investigative Counsel. During both her tenure at MTA IG and OIG, Abreu led investigative teams comprised of lawyers, investigators, auditors, and forensic analysts as part of complex investigations examining allegations of waste, fraud, and corruption at City and State social service agencies.
As part of today’s announcement, Inspector General Lucy Lang also promoted NYS Investigator Jason R. Fazio to be the new Managing Investigator for Welfare. Fazio, who is recognized as a subject matter expert on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fraud and is often consulted by local, state, and federal law enforcement partners, has over fifteen years of investigatory and enforcement experience, including as an Unemployment Insurance Investigator for the NYS Department of Labor where he investigated complex cases of fraud and collusion of the New York State unemployment insurance program by both claimants and employers. Mr. Fazio also worked as a Welfare Fraud Investigator for the Albany County Department of Social Services, and as a Corrections Officer for the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Office.
“The welfare system is a critical safety net for New Yorkers in need,” said Inspector General Lang. “The appointment of these two accomplished leaders will enable the Office of the Welfare Inspector General to more efficiently identify and prevent fraud, and ultimately direct public resources to those who need it most.”
Since taking office in November 2021, Inspector General Lang has created new Attorneys-in-Charge positions focused on priority areas for the agency, including Bryan Richmond, as Attorney-in-Charge for Workers’ Compensation Fraud, George Frany as Attorney-in-Charge for Dept. of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) Matters, and Jessica Haaz as Attorney-in-Charge for Special Projects. These Attorneys-in-Charge report directly to the Chief Deputy Inspector General and are best positioned to identify concerning trends within their portfolios.
Additionally, IG Lang released the Office of the Welfare Inspector General 2021 Annual Report which details significant matters handled over the past year, including those involving public assistance fraud and identity theft, the theft and trafficking of SNAP benefits intended for vulnerable populations, and new preventative programs to combat fraud and misuse of COVID stabilization and recovery funds.
In 2021, the Inspector General partnered with the NYS Department of Labor (DOL), the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), and the NYS Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to assist with investigations of fraud allegations for unemployment insurance, rental assistance, and childcare subsidies, and the deployment of programs to deter fraud, resulting in 55 additional referrals and 38 opened investigations.