$8 Million in Food Stamp Money Stolen by City Employees

$8 Million in Food Stamp Money Stolen by City Employees

Federal prosecutors just announced they've charged four New Yorkers -- including two current city employees -- with mail fraud for stealing more than $8 million in food stamp benefits from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The complaint, unsealed in Manhattan federal court today, accuses four New York women -- including three who either currently or previously worked for the city's Human Resources Administration -- of spending three years accessing computer databases to approve more than 1,500 food stamp cases under bogus names, addresses, and Social Security numbers.

One of the women, Alice Bradford, allegedly paid friends to use their mailing addresses, which she and Tori Jackson (who worked for the HRA from 2001 to 2010) passed onto Vanee Sykes, an HRA employee who would then assign phony names and income data and approve the fraudulent food stamp applications.

Also charged is a 30-year HRA veteran named Lois Johnson, who supposedly controlled a post-office box to which several of the food stamp cards were sent.

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Since 2007, the four women then collected and resold food stamps worth a cumulative total of more than $8 million.

In a statement, Department of Investigation commissioner Rose Hearn said the women turned the food stamp program "into their own feeding trough, consuming $8 million intended for needy New Yorkers."

"Most disturbing," Hearn said, "is that a veteran HRA supervisor is at the heart of this charged crime and monumental abuse of trust. She turned her expertise against her own agency and the taxpayers and steered a staggering sum of money to herself and her criminal associates."

The four women are awaiting arraignment. Each is charged with one count of mail fraud and could face up to 20 years in prison, if convicted.

USA v. Sykes, Vanee Et Al

[shernandez@villagevoice.com]


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