OLEAN - Donna J. Cox, 41, of Olean, was charged with third-degree welfare fraud, third-degree grand larceny and three counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing at 10:53 a.m. Tuesday.
According to a police report, Cox is accused of not reporting that her husband or his income were in the household on the applications that she submitted to the Cattaraugus County DSS from April 2010 to August 2011. She reportedly received $13,918 in food stamps during that time to which her family was not entitled.
"Cases like this are a pretty common occurrence not just here but anywhere," said Timothy Whitcomb, Cattaraugus County sheriff. "It's a large enough a problem that we dedicate an investigator to it. We receive grant money to help pay for the program and work collaboratively with DSS. We have an investigator assigned to their office that works with them and their databases to work on these cases."
She will appear in court again on May 1.
Welfare and food stamp fraud has become a growing problem in the United States as the numbers of families in need also rises, but the government is doing its best to crack down on fraudulent claims. In December, Kevin Concannon, U.S. Agriculture Department undersecretary, announced a new range of tactics to help put a stop to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program fraud.
New rules have expanded the definition of what trafficking is and stronger sanctions and penalties for retailers now allow the USDA to take more aggressive action against the retailers that violate program rules. SNAP currently uses EBT cards, which allow the USDA to more easily track trafficking and other suspicious activities. There is also a dedicated staff employed by the USDA of more than 100 analysts and investigators that are hired solely to conduct investigations, process cases and analyze retailer data that is relevant to SNAP fraud cases.
"It's a large enough a problem that we dedicate an investigator to it. We receive grant money to help pay for the program and work collaboratively with DSS."
Catt. County sheriff
If anyone has any information on possible cases of SNAP fraud, they can contact the USDA Office of Inspector General by calling 800-424-9121 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Fraud can also be reported to the state or local agencies responsible for monitoring the SNAP program.