Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini has announced the arrest of a Suffolk County Department of Social Services (“DSS”) employee for allegedly fraudulently obtaining benefits for her family members.
Paola Masi, 30, of Patchogue, is charged with Corrupting the Government in the Third Degree, a D Felony; Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a D Felony; Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, an E Felony; Public Corruption; Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree, a D Felony; Welfare Fraud in the Fourth Degree, an E Felony; and Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree, a D Felony.
“This individual allegedly used her position of trust and her knowledge of the system to steal more than $5,000 from Suffolk County taxpayers that was meant for families truly in need,” District Attorney Sini said. “This kind of scheme goes directly against our duties as public servants. I commend the members of my office’s Public Integrity Bureau for their vigilance in protecting taxpayers.”
Masi has been employed by DSS as a Social Services Examiner 1 since 2013 and is responsible for evaluating applications to determine an individual’s eligibility for benefits. In 2018 and 2019, she allegedly used her position to manipulate DSS’s Welfare Management System to falsely qualify her mother, father and grandmother for benefits, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) benefits. Masi’s alleged scheme resulted in the theft of at least $5,000 in benefits to which her family members were not entitled.
Masi allegedly deleted electronic notices that would have alerted other DSS employees that her mother and father earned income during the time period when they were applying for benefits. Masi also allegedly fraudulently obtained SNAP benefits for her grandmother by falsely certifying her eligibility for SNAP benefits before the certification process began.
Masi’s father, Luis Bustamante, has also been charged in connection with the alleged scheme.
Bustamante, 62, of Brentwood, is charged with Corrupting the Government in the Third Degree, a D Felony; Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, an E Felony; Public Corruption; and Welfare Fraud in the Fourth Degree, an E Felony.
Masi was arraigned yesterday and was released on her own recognizance. She is due back in court on Jan. 28, 2021, and is being represented by Ian Fitzgerald. Bustamante was arraigned today and was released on his own recognizance. He is due back in court on Jan. 25, 2021, and is being represented by the Legal Aid Society.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Carey Ng and Sean Buckley, of the Public Integrity Bureau.
A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.