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Long IslandCrime

Five used clients’ food stamps for themselves, officials say

Officials said this surveillance video shows suspects with

Officials said this surveillance video shows suspects with cases of energy drinks and other items purchased with stolen food assistance cards. Photo Credit: New York State Office of the Welfare Inspector General

Five former and current employees of a social services nonprofit stole the food assistance cards of their at-risk clients, buying almost $8,000 in king crab legs, steaks, baby food and other items, state and Suffolk officials said in announcing their arrests Monday.

The cards from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, once known as food stamps, were sent to 11 people at the Brentwood residential facility operated by the Federation of Organizations, a West Babylon-based nonprofit that provides social services to the mentally disabled and other at-risk adults, according to the state’s acting Welfare Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott and Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini.

But the five, along with seven acquaintances, friends and relatives, used the funds to buy food in bulk for themselves between spring 2015 and last fall, state investigators said.

Sometimes, the defendants would shop with the resident, according to Leahy Scott. Investigators went back to the stores to obtain video — in one case spotting suspects with Red Bull energy drinks piled high on a pallet, said Leahy Scott’s office, which led the investigation.

The 12 defendants were arraigned and released after being charged with various counts of first-degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person and fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, both felonies. Some were also charged with felony grand larceny and misdemeanor petty larceny.

“These charges represent a shamelessly corrupt scheme by a group of defendants willing to steal from New York’s most vulnerable citizens to satisfy their own extravagant greed,” Leahy Scott said in a news release.

The four former employees charged are former case managers Marla Hayes, 31, of Garden City Avenue in Wheatley Heights and Sasha Quintanilla, 31, of New Hampshire Avenue in Bay Shore; former rehabilitative associate Alejandro Khoury, 30, of Voorhis Drive in Brentwood; former employee Alex Coyman, 28, of Woodlawn Avenue in St. James; and peer support aide James Newkirk, 31, of South 25th Street in Wyandanch.

It was not immediately known whether they had attorneys.

In a statement, the Federation of Organizations said it has a “zero tolerance policy regarding the alleged conduct” and is cooperating with investigators. “In addition, we have taken all appropriate measures to ensure the safety of our clients, whose welfare is paramount,” the nonprofit said.

Officials noted that the Brentwood facility, which is on the grounds of Pilgrim State Hospital, does not have cooking facilities.

“These perpetrators were entrusted to care for these victims and instead robbed them of their most basic resource,” Sini said in a statement.

Leahy Scott’s office said the investigation is ongoing.

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