Two New York City welfare workers were arrested and charged Tuesday with allegedly defrauding the city of $2.1 million in assistance benefits.
Petronila Peralta and Cherrise Watson-Jackson exploited the city between 2008 and 2013. At the time they both worked at the Human Resources Administration. The two women allegedly defrauded the city of $2.1 million worth of food stamps and rental subsidies, reports the New York Post. They were helped by 11 co-conspirators who are still at large.
“This defendant was entrusted to provide government assistance to New York’s neediest families but instead abused that trust and her authority,” State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott says in a statement to The New York Times.
They found recipients willing to sell their benefits for a percentage of what they are worth. Trading food stamps for cash is illegal because is allows recipients to buy restricted items like alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. After that they used the fraudulent benefits to purchase Red Bull in bulk in order to resell the energy drink for cash. They spent $120,000 on the energy drink in just five months.
The food stamp program is officially known as The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It is run by The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in partnership with state agencies.
The improved economy helped decrease the number of participants in recent years. The Congressional Budget Office found, since participation hit its peak in December 2012, the number of people receiving benefits has declined by more than 1.5 million.
Nevertheless, the size alone has prompted concern among many lawmakers. In response, there have been many different proposals on the federal and local level to help prevent abuse.
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