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Sullivan legislators mark DFS arrests; new direction for county announced

Legislators Kitty Vetter, left, Cindy Gieger, Cora Edwards and Gene Benson hold a press conference outside the Travis Building in Liberty, which houses the Department of Family Services, regarding recent arrests.

By Fritz Mayer
November 19, 2013

With dozens of staff of the Department of Family Services (DFS) looking on, (DFS) legislator Cindy Geiger held a press conference outside of the Travis Building in Liberty on November 19 to mark the arrests of two members of the DFS team.

Since the formation of the DFS Fraud Investigative Unit earlier this year, dozens of cases of fraud and abuse have been uncovered, but this is the first time an investigation has resulted in the arrest of individuals within the department.

Those arrested were named in a press release from the New York State Police at Liberty issued on November 15. They are Stephen Mackey, age 48, of Hudson, Darlene Conklin, age 50, and George Conklin Jr., age 30, both of Swan Lake.

State police and the Fraud Unit “determined that false paperwork related to the application for housing, food stamps and HEAP had been submitted to Sullivan County between 2011 and 2013 by all three subjects.”

The release said that both Conklins are employed as examiners by DFS. Darlene was charged with forgery, filing a false instrument, welfare fraud and official misconduct. George was charged with filing a false instrument, possession of a forged document and official misconduct. Mackey was charged with grand larceny, filing a false instrument and welfare fraud. The investigation is ongoing and more charges are expected.

At the press conference, Gieger praised the work of commission Randy Parker and investigator Gerald Dietz, and said the county is on the right road in terms of correcting the social services picture.

But she added, “Years of a lack of oversight has lead to streams of Medicaid funding moving through hundreds of Medicaid shelters, many of which are unverified, amounting to millions of tax dollars much of it sent outside this county to addresses elsewhere. Make no mistake, many Medicaid venders in Sullivan County are accountable and are providing a necessary service to our most vulnerable. The concern lies in the number of people coming to Sullivan County as a destination for benefits from numerous destinations outside Sullivan County who provide a county address reflecting numerous unverified shelters.”

Gieger, who is the chair of the county’s Health and Family Services Committee, proposed a series of reforms aimed toward preventing the kind of abuse that has existed. The reforms include reinstating the position of an employee who would report to the commissioner on legal issues. The reforms would include more verification and oversight of providers and the reform of whistleblower procedures to ensure that complaints from employees are taken seriously and acted upon quickly.

Press Release:

The Fraud Investigations Unit has been working diligently to save Sullivan County residents millions that would otherwise be dispersed to individuals who falsely file applications for assistance and neglect to provide support for their children. These are some of the ways in which we are pursuing these cases and the results obtained from them.

• A new Fraud Hotline has been established and Sullivan County residents are being encouraged to report welfare fraud.

• Tips received through calls on the new hotline as well as other venues are actively investigated in a timely manner.

• Investigations have led to 39 arrests for welfare fraud.

• Currently the Fraud Unit is working to recover monies paid to recipients that filed applications fraudulently.

• A total of $36,678 is currently being repaid to the Department of Family Services as a result of the efforts of the Fraud Unit.

• We are actively pursuing individuals neglecting to pay child support arrears.

• Between January 2013 and October 2013, utilizing the Front End Detection Program, a total of 1,175 applications were withdrawn or denied preventing fraud and ultimately saving the County a total of $13,607,700.

• The Eligibility Verification Review Program is designed to randomly review cases, as of the end of October this program has saved the county $2,135,742.