More than a dozen arrested in welfare fraud sweep

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Rensselaer County officials announcing a major welfare fraud bust on Monday.

The 19 suspects have been arrested for suspected welfare fraud and seven others are still wanted by police. The total amount of money they allegedly cost taxpayers is $56,000.

“It’s just an affront to the hardworking people of Rensselaer County,” Steve McLaughlin, County Executive, said.

Mug shots are plastered on the walls of the Rensselaer county public safety building. McLaughlin sent a strong message to those who abuse the system.

“It’s completely unfair for people to take advantage of a system that is already pretty generous to begin.”

The Rensselaer County Special Investigations Unit has three full-time investigators working to root out defrauders based on an internal welfare review process and tips from the community.  The suspected cases of fraud run the litany.

“Daycare benefits, medical assistance, public assistance, cash benefits, or SNAP benefits,” Theresa Beaudoin, of Rensselaer County Department of Social Services, said.

The annual sweeps serve as a deterrent to would-be scammers.

District Attorney Mary Pat Donnelly says the suspects face felony charges and, if convicted, could spend in excess of a year in jail.  

“We need to reserve that money for those who do deserve it because here in Rensselaer County we want to help our own,” Donnelly said.

Officials say they expect the seven suspects who are still being sought be will be arrested shortly.

“We will help the other agencies in the county in going out and seeking out people who abuse the system and arresting them,” Sheriff Pat Russo said.

It will soon be easier for the public to report suspect cases of welfare fraud, with the county rolling out a tip number in the coming days.

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