Six accused drug dealers arrested during operation Street Sweeper in Hornell earlier this year are now facing additional felony charges.
The Steuben County district attorney says that’s because they were fraudulently collecting welfare benefits and using those benefits to fund their drug operations. Something the Hornell Police Department was able to determine upon further investigation into the individuals.
“Many of these folks were double dipping,” Steuben County DA Brooks Baker said. “Not only were they selling drugs in our community and hurting us that way, but they were also collecting social services benefits at the same time to fund their drug operations.”
Five of the accused are charged with Grand Larceny, one person is charged with Petit Larceny and all of the charges carry additional penalties including restitution. Each of the accused stole a minimum of $1000 from the county.“For the people charged with E felonies that can carry up to four years in prison, for the folks charged with D’s it’s up to seven years in prison,” Baker said. “So we’re looking at significant penalties for welfare fraud in this county.”
The county’s Social Services Commissioner says the fraud has got to stop. Her office has recovered $4.5 million over the last five years from people defrauding the system.
“There are people who truly need this help and benefit and the people are out there defrauding the system and double dipping, really paint a bad picture of welfare benefits, really painting a bad light on the services that we offer,” Commissioner Kathryn Muller said.
The district attorney has a message for those people.
“We’re going to punish you for everything that you do wrong, not only dealing drugs but also if you take money from our citizens to help fund those operations through our social services,” Baker said.
The district attorney’s office also announced that Hornell Police made another large drug bust just last night. Police seized 5.2 pounds of marijuana from a location they believe is being used as the drying station of a growing operation. The drugs have a street value of approximately $26,000. No word yet on arrests as the investigation is ongoing.