Thirteen people were arrested in what officials are calling the largest welfare fraud sweep in the history of St. Lawrence County, New York.
On Friday, District Attorney Gary Pasqua announced the arrests of several women accused of swindling the Department of Social Services out of more than $104,000 in welfare benefits, local station WWNY-TV reported.
The women, all of them white, are facing charges of welfare fraud in the third and fourth degrees, both of which are felonies. One suspect, Star L. Perrin, is accused of pocketing over $31,000 in public assistance benefits she wasn’t entitled to receive after failing to report her income, the district attorney’s office said.
Four separate arrests are still pending.
“Here in St. Lawrence County, our welfare benefits provide vital support to genuinely needy families at great cost [to] honest hard working taxpayers,” Pasqua said in a statement. “Those individuals who gain benefits through deception are stealing medicine, groceries, and other necessary provisions from innocent children, vulnerable seniors, working citizens, and others in need.”
News of the women’s June 14 arrests in the 95 percent white county in upstate New York garnered a flurry of reactions from social media users who pointed out how the record sweep poked a hole in stereotypical assumptions that Black folks and other racial minorities make up the bulk of welfare recipients.
“When these damn minorities come to this country and take money from hard working white Americans… sorry, strike that…,” comedian Christopher Titus tweeted.
“Funny how there was just a welfare scam that was busted by the feds and the culprits appear to be white women,” another chimed in.
One critic joked, “are these your welfare queens?”
“When are we going to #maga and #BuildTheWall to keep these people out,” wrote another.
A 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 36.2 percent of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries were white, 25.6 percent were Black, 17.2 percent were Latino.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 28 percent of Temporary Assistance of Needy Families (TANF) recipients in 2016 were white and 19 percent were African-American. Latinos made up 36 percent of TANF beneficiaries that year.