New task force collars five people for defrauding public assistance system

GREENPORT–Five people were charged with welfare fraud by a newly formed county task force assigned specifically to investigate abuse of the public assistance system.

   On July 8 at 8:30 a.m. Sheriff’s Office Investigator John Rivero and Deputies Travis VanAlstyne and Jason Garvey arrested:

*Marc S. Rivenburgh, 45, of Hudson for fourth degree welfare fraud, fourth degree grand larceny, and first degree filing a false written instrument, all class E felonies

*Melissa A. Strack, 42, of Columbiaville for fourth degree welfare fraud, fourth degree grand larceny, both class E felonies

*Renee L. Clarke, 37, of Livingston for first degree filing a false written instrument, fourth degree welfare fraud, fourth degree grand larceny, all class E felonies

*John H. Finkle, III, 24, of Hudson for fifth degree welfare fraud and petit larceny, both class A misdemeanors

*Mahyana Sanon, 21, of Hudson for second degree forgery, a class D felony; filing a false written instrument, a class E felony; fifth degree welfare fraud and petit larceny, both class A misdemeanors.

   Arraigned in Hudson City Court before Judge Richard Koweek, all were sent to the Columbia County Jail.  Mr. Rivenburgh without bail; Ms. Clarke and Ms. Sanon were held in lieu of $500 cash bail or $1,000 bail bond; Ms. Strack was held in lieu of $750 cash bail or $1,500 bail bond and Mr. Finkle was held in lieu of $250 cash bail or $500 bail bond. They were directed to return to city court at a later date.

   Since development of the Columbia County Welfare Fraud Task Force by County Board of Supervisors Chairman Art Baer and the Board of Supervisors, task force members have been working to identify and investigate those who abuse public assistance by fraudulent criminal activity, according to a press release from Sheriff David W. Harrison, Jr.

   Beginning April 1, task force members were familiarized with the state and local public assistance systems and Investigator Rivero was assigned to work with DSS investigators and the DA’s Office.

   Investigations by the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the task force team began in mid-May resulting in the above arrests.

   Mr. Baer, Sheriff Harrison, DSS Commissioner Paul Mossman and District Attorney Beth Cozzolino said that they recognized the need for a Welfare Fraud Task Force and to have all of their agencies working together. As a result of the combined effort of these agencies, Columbia County officials report that they have, to date, realized a savings of more than $51,000 in fraudulent claims and abuses to the public assistance system.

   “This should be a message to those who would abuse the system to steal benefits and money…public assistance is for those who need it.  If you steal it by fraudulent or other means, it’s a crime and a team of well qualified and dedicated professionals may be knocking on your door,” Sheriff Harrison said in the release.

   Mr. Baer, Mr. Mossman, Ms. Cozzolino and the sheriff are committed to investigating, arresting and prosecuting those individuals and/or companies who deceive the social services programs for the purposes of illegally obtaining benefits they are not entitled to, said the release.

   A Columbia County Welfare Fraud Hotline has also been established. By calling (518) 822-8477 a person can leave information about suspected welfare fraud.

   The information is confidential and the caller is not required to leave their name. Residents, taxpayers and the general public may now assist the Columbia County Welfare Fraud Task Force by reporting fraud and abuse of public assistance.

   Information of other crimes or suspicious activity may also be reported at that number. 

Gallatin

Ray A. Coons, 40, of Clermont was charged with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, driving while intoxicated, failure to keep right, consuming an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle and speed not reasonable and prudent by Deputies Brendan Filli and Michael Stelling following a car crash on Snyderville Road, July 3 at 2:40 a.m.

   Mr. Coons was driving a 1988 Ford sedan when he lost control of vehicle, which went off the roadway, struck a small tree, continued into a swampy area and came to rest on its passenger side. Mr. Coons left the accident scene.

   He was subsequently taken by private vehicle to Columbia Memorial Hospital for evaluation.

   He was issued an appearance ticket and directed to appear in Gallatin Court July 22. 

Greenport

Richard Moore Jr., 29, of Hudson was charged with second and third degree assault by Deputies Brian Molinski and Keith Johnson, July 8 at 9:08 a.m.

   Mr. Moore allegedly hit a 28-year-old woman in the mouth and face, and grabbed her.

   The woman was treated for her injuries at Columbia Memorial Hospital and later released.

   Arraigned in Greenport Court before Justice Robert Brenzel, Mr. Moore was sent to the county jail without bail and ordered to return to court at a later date. 

Chatham

Brandon L. Fielder, 20, of Ghent was charged with third degree assault, a misdemeanor, by Chatham Police July 5 at 11:15 a.m.

   Mr. Fielder allegedly assaulted a 22-year-old man, causing injuries to his face at the Columbia County Fairgrounds on the evening of July 4.

   Mr. Fielder was issued a ticket returnable in Chatham Village Court July 21.

*Kenneth DuBose, 41, of Chatham was charged with third degree assault, second degree unlawful imprisonment and resisting arrest by Chatham Police July 3 at 5:30 a.m.

   Police responded to a fight in-progress at a private residence in the village. The patrol discovered that Mr. Du Bose had allegedly caused injury to a 23-year-old woman.

   When police attempted to take Mr. DuBose into custody, he allegedly fought with them and had to be physically restrained.

   The Chatham Rescue Squad took the woman to Columbia Memorial Hospital for medical treatment.

   Mr. DuBose was arraigned before Kinderhook Town Justice Natalie Kolb and released pending a return appearance in Chatham Village Court at a later date. 

Germantown

Germantown firefighters responded to a report of smoke coming from the basement of a house at the intersection of County Route 8 and Old Sawmill Road, July 10 at 10:52 a.m.

   Mutual aid with tankers was summoned from Clermont and Livingston.

   Greenport firefighters stood by in quarters for Germantown.

   National Grid was called to the scene to disconnect power.

   The Columbia County Cause and Origin Team was called to investigate. Columbia County fire coordinators were also on the scene. 

Drugs/alcohol

The following face drug-or alcohol-related charges:

*Jack W. Castagna, 41, of Chatham was charged with driving while intoxicated, aggravated driving while intoxicated and failure to keep right by Deputy Louis Bray during a traffic stop on Route 203 in Kinderhook, July 5 at 9:34 p.m. Released with traffic tickets, Mr. Castagna is scheduled to appear in Kinderhook Town Court July 28.

*Adam C. Cooley, 25, of Hudson was charged with driving while intoxicated, aggravated driving while intoxicated, failure to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles about an address change, unsafe turn signal and improper left turn by Deputies Brendan Filli and Reagan Anderson during a traffic stop on Union Street, Hudson, July 9 at 2:42 a.m. Released to a third party, Mr. Cooley was issued tickets directing him to appear in Hudson City Court July 29.

    To contact Diane Valden email .

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