Monday, January 16th, 2017

Thinking of ripping off the Social Services system in Wayne County? Perhaps you’re contemplating trading the EBT (Electronic Benefits Card) you use for food, rent or other items in exchange for drugs, or cash. Maybe you thought the social services system was ripe for Medicade fraud, or you work “under the table” and don’t report your income, and still collect DSS benefits? How about that less than scrupulous store that trades in EBT cards for a portion of their worth, handing out quick cash.

Think again!

Wayne County Sheriff Barry Virts has teamed up with Wayne County Department Social Services (DSS) Director Josh McCrossen in developing a two man unit strictly dedicated to investigating and arresting anyone found misusing the system.

Sheriff’s Investigator Alan Graham had been working with the DSS for the past several years, adopting cases, squeezing them in whenever possible with his regular duties. DSS official Mary Lippert has been working with police to expose the fraud cases and will continue working with the new unit.

That is all about to change. Graham, along with Deputy Andy Hares, will have offices in both the Public Safety Building and the DSS building, with one goal in mind. “I already have a dozen cases backed up, ready for investigation,” said Graham.

Sheriff Virts said it is not the intention to prevent anyone with legitimate needs from receiving assistance, but preventing theft of taxpayer dollars is definitely the goal of the unit. Sheriff Virts said a similar attempt stopped in the late 1970s-1980s when there was a rift between the two County departments.

The unit will not add to the budgets of either department and is expected to at least be a break-even or better level within the full year of operation.

This past week, on Thursday (1/16) Investigator Graham reported the arrest of Jose R. Crespo, age 55, of 12 Mobile Drive after an investigation into the fraudulent use of a deceased person Electronic Benefit Card.

The investigation began when  DSS received notice that a Sodus man, George Brunson, who was in assisted living, passed away in May of 2013, and had an EBT card that was still active months after his death.

Graham checked the stores, such as Walmart, Save-A-Lot and Aldi’s, where the card was used and food stamp benefits were being redeemed. He found that Crespo was involved in the redemptions.

It is believed that Crespo and others spent just shy of $1,000 in the 4 months they accessed  Brunson’s benefits. Crespo was charged with Identity Theft in the second degree and Misuse of Food Stamps. He was arraigned in the Lyons Village Court where Justice Larry Hartwell committed him to the Wayne County Jail without bail. His case will be heard in the Lyons Court at a later date. The investigation is continuing and other arrests are pending.