October 13, 2011
Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano announced today that the County Department of Social Services Office of Investigations acting on information received from a confidential source, launched an investigation into Tiara Clemons, a welfare recipient from Uniondale who, records revealed, made several large cash withdrawals from her cash assistance benefits in December 2010 and January 2011. In all, Clemons withdrew over $15,000 from her account, in $300-500 increments from ATM machines until the account was empty. The investigation revealed that only days before the December 2010 withdrawals, two identical deposits of $5,737.60 were transferred into Clemons’ public assistance account. Also one day before the January 2011 withdrawal, $3,750 was transferred into her account. Such a large amount of money deposited in a small time periodic incredibly rare and investigators began looking further into the circumstances surrounding the transfer and whether Clemons was actually eligible for the benefits that she received.
The investigation eventually revealed not only that DSS worker Nicole Garcia transferred the funds into Tiara Clemons’ account without authorization or proper justification to do so, but that Garcia had arranged with Clemons to share in the proceeds of the illegal transaction.
When the Office of Investigations learned that a DSS employee was involved in this illegal activity, they immediately contacted the Nassau County Police Department’s Crimes Against Property Squad who took the lead in the investigation. “It is an outrage that a County employee was involved in a scheme to steal money,” stated County Executive Mangano. “Taking public funds away from people who are truly in need of financial assistance is despicable and will not be tolerated. This conduct is certainly not representative of our very committed and dedicated county workforce. DSS Commissioner John Imhof also noted that “we are conducting a thorough review of our administrative and supervisory procedures and will take whatever actions are necessary to insure there is no repetition of this unlawful behavior.”
In all, Garcia is accused of funneling more than $29,000 in public assistance cash benefits to clients that were not eligible for those benefits. Garcia and Clemons have been arrested.