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Herkimer County cracking down on welfare fraud

By NICOLE PITT

HERKIMER COUNTY, N.Y. (WKTV) - If you are scamming the welfare system in Herkimer County, you will get caught, according to Herkimer County Sheriff Chris Farber.

Members of the Sheriff's Department, the District Attorney's Office, the Department of Social Services and the Herkimer County Legislature met Friday morning inside the Sheriff's Department on North Main Street in Herkimer to discuss possible solutions to the growing problem.

One of those solutions is to add investigators within the county.

Sheriff Chris Farber says the welfare fraud system was revamped a few months ago and it's since been running more efficiently.

"The plans right now are to continue what we've been doing. We want to build on our welfare fraud unit, maybe add some personnel and make it more effective," said Sheriff Farber. "Our main goal is to prevent it from happening. I think there's ways we can do that. It's not always about arresting people but gathering information - how are they doing this, how are they getting away with this."

The Chairman of the Herkimer County Legislature Vincent Bono says welfare fraud is not unique to Herkimer County.

"It's not just a problem in Herkimer County, it's a problem in New York State and we need to contact our state and federal representatives and see if we can have tougher laws on this," said Bono. "We're using our current employees on a limited basis. We really need more people pounding the beat- so to say."

"This is a big problem," said Sheriff Farber. "We know it costs the taxpayers a ton of money - we know people are getting services that they don't deserve and we know there are vendors out there selling people things that they shouldn't be selling those things to them. We're going after them, too. We are going out there and we will catch people."

Investigators Kristin Baker and Rick Salamone say that over the past six months, the county has looked into about 80 cases of welfare fraud. Most of them involve people who falsely report their income, or are not truthful about the number of people living at their residence.

So far, 13 of those cases have ended in an arrest and more are likely.

"It's taking money out of the taxpayers pockets and we want to make sure the people that need the services get it, but we also don't want people frauding the system, getting more than they should or getting benefits that they don't even deserve," said Sheriff Farber. "We want the public and we want the people that may be committing welfare fraud to know that we're coming after them 12:19 this is a big problem. We know it costs the taxpayers a ton of money - we know people are getting services that they don't deserve and we know there are vendors out there selling people things that they shouldn't be seling those things to them we're going after them too. We are going out there and we will catch people."

If you suspect welfare fraud, give the Herkimer County Department of Social Services a call. The number is (315) 867- 1328.

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