Across Central New York, investigators have rounded up dozens of suspects in the latest round of welfare fraud case. But as YNN's Bill Carey reports, those investigators are quick to say they're only scratching the surface of the problem.
CENTRAL NEW YORK -- His name is Marwan el-Hindi. His business in Syracuse failed and he moved to Ohio. In 2009, he and two other men were convicted in a plot to kill American soldiers in Iraq. His wife, Nadia, returned to Syracuse, where she now faces charges of welfare fraud.
"Here we have a terrorist. Not alleged terrorist, a convicted terrorist in Ohio, whose spouse moves to Syracuse and grabs us for $50,000. We've got to start working harder and harder to catch these people and put a stop to this," said Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick.
Across five counties, investigators were doing what they could, rounding up suspects they say ripped off the system for public assistance, day care, Medicaid and food stamps. In all, authorities in five counties were able to bring cases against 80 individuals. The total fraud put at close to a million dollars. The fraud having an impact in counties facing a major budget crunch.
"The state mandated portions of our county budgets are huge. And a lot of that has to do with this public assistance. It's not for the people who are entitled to and deserving of it. It's for the people who are stealing it from everybody else and the taxpayers," said Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann.
Prosecutors from across the region are hoping this new roundup has an impact beyond the 80 new criminal cases.
"Stop now if you are receiving benefits you know you're not entitled to. Now is the time to call up DSS and discontinue the receipt of those benefits," said Bernard Hyman, Assistant Oneida County District Attorney.
They say the scrutiny will grow more intense.
"We're getting better at it, quite frankly. Unfortunately, some of these thieves are getting better, too," Fitzpatrick said.