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Four Erie County residents arrested on charges of public assistance fraud

Nick Lippa

A welfare fraud sweep found four Erie County residents stole more than $42,000 dollars in public benefits. They have been arrested and face multiple charges including grand larceny.

Stephanie Jurek, 33, of West Seneca stole the most, totaling $30,400 in SNAP (food stamps) and Medicaid benefits from July 2013-October 2017. New York State Acting Welfare Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott said it’s a big number, but it’s not the largest she’s seen.

“The larger jurisdictions, when you get into cities like Buffalo, you start seeing larger numbers, but $30,000 for one individual is significant and exorbitant," she said, "especially for the person that is sitting here listening to us talk about this type of fraud that has been committed and the fact that they need the assistance.”

Scott said the defendants shared similar traits when committing the fraud. They were either concealing their own income or didn’t report the income of a member in their household.

“I want you to think about the person who is truly in need of these benefits,” Scott said. “Sitting there thinking about $40,000. That is an exorbitant amount of money to them. So these cases are extremely important to the DA, to us, to the Department of Social Services, and we will continue to investigate.”

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said this is not a victimless crime and creates not only fiscal issues, but optical ones in the public eye.

“Whether it’s medical assistance, food stamps, public assistance cash, whatever your needs are… and there are those in the community who truly need that. They are the victims of this crime along with all of us, the tax payers,” Flynn said.

The defendants in this case are looking at two and a half to seven years in jail.

Credit Nick Lippa / WBFO

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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