×

Six Charged With Misuse Of Food Stamps

Multiple area residents are now facing welfare fraud and grand larceny charges after allegedly receiving thousands of dollars in unentitled food stamp benefits.

According to the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office, five Jamestown residents and one Dunkirk resident were charged within the last week following a joint investigation with the county’s Department of Health and Human Services Program Integrity Unit.

Betsy Steger, director of the Program Integrity Unit, said recently that sporadic spikes in welfare fraud are not necessarily indicative of widespread abuse, but rather investigative personnel dealing with backlogged cases, many of which are from last year.

“We don’t have anything that indicates that there is suddenly a big upward swing in (welfare fraud) cases,” said Steger in a recent interview. “I wouldn’t say our numbers are any greater than they’ve been in previous years.”

Steger credited this in large part to FEDS, or the Front End Detection System, a program in which errors and discrepancies found in entitlement applications are thoroughly examined before any benefits are awarded.

“(FEDS) deals with cases where someone is not yet approved (for) benefits, but there seems to be something in their application that raises concern, and this is investigated by our two in-house investigators who are DHHS employees,” Steger said. “(People might) make up street addresses or give incorrect addresses. There also might be more people living in their homes than they report.”

Applications with such discrepancies are either denied or changed to reflect a different amount of benefits.

In 2014, there were 2,739 applications that were referred to DHHS investigators because of questionable information. Of these, 636 were denied or withdrawn and 665 were altered to reflect a new amount of benefits.

As a result of these findings, the county saved nearly $6 million in what otherwise would have been unentitled benefits to customers.

The six area residents recently charged include:

Nichole M. Brown, 31, of Jamestown, who was charged Friday with fourth-degree welfare fraud, fourth-degree grand larceny, misuse of food stamps over $1,000 and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. It is alleged that between Nov. 1, 2013, and Feb. 28, Brown failed to notify social services that her husband was employed and had income. She allegedly concealed this information by repeatedly filing false applications with the Department of Health and Human Services. She reportedly received $2,749 in unentitled food stamp benefits.

Sheri B. Doverspike, 44, of Jamestown, who was charged Monday with fourth-degree grand larceny and misuse of food stamps over $1,000. It is alleged that between July 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2014, Doverspike failed to notify social services that she was employed and earning wages. She allegedly received $1,479 in unentitled food stamp benefits.

Troy A. Walker, 28, of Jamestown, who was charged Monday with fourth-degree welfare fraud, fourth-degree grand larceny, first-degree offering a false instrument for filing and misuse of food stamps over $1,000. It is alleged that between Oct. 1, 2014, and May 31, Walker failed to notify social services that he was working and receiving wages. He allegedly concealed this information by filing a false application with social services. He allegedly received $1,552 in unentitled food stamp benefits and $25 in unentitled HEAP benefits.

Jane A. Canada, 34, of Jamestown, who was charged Thursday with fourth-degree grand larceny and misuse of food stamps over $1,000. It is alleged that between Oct. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2014, Canada failed to notify social services that her husband had gained employment and had income. Canada allegedly received $1,171 in unentitled food stamp benefits.

Nicole A. Lathan, 32, of Jamestown, who was charged Thursday with fourth-degree welfare fraud, fourth-degree grand larceny, first-degree offering a false instrument for filing and misuse of food stamps over $1,000. It is alleged that between Feb. 1, 2014, and July 31, 2014, Lathan was employed and failed to notify social services of her income. She allegedly received $1,050 in unentitled food stamp benefits.

Carl L. Gage, 26, of Dunkirk, who was charged Monday with fourth-degree grand larceny and misuse of food stamps over $1,000. It is alleged that between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28, Gage failed to notify social services that he was employed and earning wages. He allegedly received $1,022 in unentitled food stamp benefits.

Suspected welfare fraud can be reported by calling the welfare fraud hotline at 1-800-388-5365 or WeTip at 1-800-782-7463.

Newsletter

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
   

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today