New York City Official Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court For Food Stamp Bribery Scheme
Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that HARRY FLETCHER was sentenced yesterday in Manhattan federal court to 36 months in prison for taking more than $20,000 in bribes in exchange for awarding more than $240,000 in food stamp benefits. FLETCHER, a former official of the New York City Human Resources Administration (“HRA”), was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kevin T. Duffy. FLETCHER pled guilty in April 2016 to one count of soliciting and accepting bribes from various persons in exchange for enabling those persons to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (“SNAP,” formerly known as Food Stamps) benefits for which they were not eligible.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Bharara said: “As he admitted in court, Harry Fletcher set up a scheme to receive bribes for providing illegitimate benefits. By doing so, he didn’t just take advantage of New York City’s social services system, he abused some of the neediest and least fortunate in the City.”
According to the allegations in the Complaint and other documents, and statements made in Manhattan federal court:
The HRA provides temporary help to individuals and families with social service and economic needs to assist them in reaching self-sufficiency. Its services include, among other things, providing food stamps to low-income families and individuals. Although the food stamp program is administered locally through HRA, SNAP benefits are funded entirely by the federal government. To apply for SNAP benefits, an applicant must complete and sign an application form listing, among other things, the applicant’s income and financial assets. HRA Eligibility Specialists such as FLETCHER are supposed to interview SNAP program applicants and review applicant documentation in order to determine if the applicant is eligible to receive SNAP benefits.
Beginning in 2009, FLETCHER approached two landlords, who are referred to in the Complaint as CW-1 and CW-2, and who have pled guilty and are cooperating with the Government, and offered to provide CW-1 and CW-2 with monthly SNAP benefits in return for recurring bribe payments. CW-1 and CW-2 agreed to pay the bribes and, as a result, received tens of thousands of dollars of SNAP benefits for which they were not eligible from 2009 through 2015. CW-1 and CW-2 then recruited other individuals to the scheme, each of whom obtained monthly SNAP benefits arranged by FLETCHER, without regard to whether the applicant qualified for such benefits, in return for continued bribes. In total, FLETCHER accepted over $20,000 in bribes for improperly approving over $240,000 in SNAP benefits to CW-1, CW-2, and the remaining defendants. The applicants bribing FLETCHER were ineligible for SNAP benefits due to their income or to the fact that they did not reside in New York City and thus were not eligible for New York City social service programs.