Tri-Lakes residents arrested in welfare fraud round-up

Several Tri-Lakes area residents were taken into custody this week in a cooperative effort to crack down on welfare fraud and abuse.

14 people were arrested in the joint operation led by the Malone, Tupper Lake, and Saranac Lake village police departments as well as the Franklin County Sheriff's Department and New York State Police.

The arrests zeroed-in on alleged frauds, thefts, and false instrument filings connected to programs at the Franklin County Department of Social Services.

Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne says social services programs are meant to help and assist individuals and families. But he notes that some try to "cheat the system" and use the services as a "way of life."

"Allegations such as these hurt those who genuinely deserve assistance by attaching the stigmatism that the entire system is plagued by fraud," Champagne said.

Lesley B. Lyon is commissioner of the Franklin County Department of Social Services.

"With a tough economy where it is still hard to find good employment there are an increasing number of people who truly have to depend on public benefits to keep food on the table," she said, noting that fraud and abuse jeopardizes those programs.

Of the 14 taken into custody Thursday, four were from the Tri-Lakes.

Kristi Drabick of Tupper Lake is accused of obtaining more than $5,200 through fraudulent means. She was charged with third-degree welfare fraud, third-degree grand larceny, and misuse of food stamps, all felonies.

Ralph Robert and Desiree St. Amand - both of Saranac Lake - are both accused of stealing about $630 from social services. They were charged with offering a false instrument for filing, a felony, as well as welfare fraud, misuse of food stamps, and petit larceny, all misdemeanors.

Finally, police arrested Michael Warner of Saranac Lake for allegedly defrauding social services to the tune of more than $1,000. He was charged with fourth-degree welfare fraud and fourth-degree grand larceny, both felonies.

All subjects are scheduled to appear in Franklin County Court at a later date.

The investigation is considered ongoing and additional arrests are pending.

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