District Attorney

Posted on: May 14, 2015

Acting DA Singas Announces Arrests in Sweep Targeting Social Services Fraud

Six defendants arrested for defrauding taxpayers of thousands of dollars in unentitled benefits MINEOLA, N.Y. – Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas today announced arrests in a law enforcement sweep targeting Nassau residents who have been charged with stealing thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded social services to which they were not entitled. “For every person defrauding taxpayers by getting benefits they are not entitled to receive, there are many more struggling Nassau residents that play by the rules as they seek to care for themselves and their families,” Acting DA Singas said. “My office will continue to work with our government partners to defend the integrity of Nassau’s social service system and protect the taxpayers that fund it.” “Despite the fact that time and time again we inform the public that those who cheat the system will be caught and prosecuted, some continue to question our determination to root out fraud and abuse,” said Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano. “I again say to those who would steal money from the neediest of our citizens: you will be caught and prosecuted, and the money you’ve stolen will be returned to our taxpayers.” Ana Ventura, a/k/a Ana Rivas, 37, of Roslyn Heights, was arrested and arraigned on May 12 on charges of Welfare Fraud in the 2nd Degree (a C felony), Grand Larceny in the 2nd Degree (a C felony), and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the 1st Degree (an E felony). Ventura was released on her own recognizance by Nassau District Court Judge James Darcy. She is due back in court on June 11. Ventura collected DSS benefits from Oct. 4, 2011 through April 30, 2013 in the form of Medicaid and Day Care benefits totaling $60,014. DSS received an alert that Ventura was residing with her husband during the period and she allegedly failed to notify DSS of the presence of her husband in her household as well as his income which was approximately $58,000 annually. An investigation by the DA’s office revealed that the income of Ventura’s total household would have rendered Ventura ineligible as her household income was above the standard of need for a public assistance household of her size. Raphael Benabou, 67, and Donna Benabou, 54, of Plandome, were arrested and each arraigned on May 12 on charges of Welfare Fraud in the 3rd Degree (a D felony), Grand Larceny in the 3rd Degree (a D felony), and found counts Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the 1st Degree. Both were released on their own recognizance by Judge Darcy, and are due back in court on June 18. Raphael and Donna Benabou collected DSS benefits from Aug. 1, 2010 through Jan. 31, 2013 in the form of benefits totaling $20,175.29 from Family Health Plus, a government subsidized health insurance program based on financial eligibility. During a self-generated review of DSS recipient files, the agency became aware of the fact that the married couple allegedly underreported their household income. Investigation revealed that the Benabous allegedly failed to disclose thousands of dollars of monthly income in the form of interest and dividends, and allegedly concealed the fact that they were receiving a monthly IRA distribution in excess of $1,500. Had this income been disclosed to DSS, they would have been ineligible for the Family Health Plus benefits totaling $20,175.29 that they received from DSS. Cindy Sarelis, 38, of New Hyde Park, was arrested and arraigned on May 12 on charges of Welfare Fraud in the 3rd Degree, Grand Larceny in the 3rd Degree, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the 2nd Degree (a D felony), and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the 1st Degree. Sarelis was released on her own recognizance by Judge Darcy, and is due back in court on June 17. Sarelis collected DSS benefits from April 1, 2011 through Aug. 19, 2013 in the form of Food Stamps and Day Care benefits totaling $39,826. During a self-generated review of DSS recipient files, DSS became aware of the fact that Sarelis was receiving Social Security death benefits for each of her three minor children during the period and she allegedly failed to notify DSS of this income. An investigation by the DA’s office revealed the death of the father of Sarelis’ three minor children, and subsequent survivor death benefits totaling approximately $1,900 per month immediately received from the Social Security Administration by Sarelis as the sole guardian of their three minor children. Not only did Sarelis fail to list these SSA payments as income but she submitted fraudulent letters allegedly written and signed by the deceased father of her children after he was already dead indicating that he was paying her only $100 per month in child support. Had the SSA payments to Sarelis been revealed to DSS as part of the total household income of Sarelis, this income would have rendered her ineligible as her household income was above the standard of need for a public assistance household of her size. Naisha Chinnery, 30, of Jamaica, was arrested and arraigned on May 12 on charges of Welfare Fraud in the 3rd Degree, Grand Larceny in the 3rd Degree, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the 2nd Degree, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the 1st Degree. Chinnery was released on her own recognizance by Judge Darcy, and is due back in court on Friday. Chinnery collected DSS benefits from July 2012 through April 2014 in the form of Food Stamps and Medicaid benefits totaling $10,596. DSS received an alert that Chinnery had submitted employment documentation that was inconsistent with her actual work history. Investigation revealed that paystubs submitted allegedly indicating that Chinnery had been employed by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority making a particular amount were false and that Chinnery, in fact, never worked for that agency. Had Chinnery’s true higher income from her actual employment been revealed to DSS, Chinnery would have been ineligible for the Food Stamps and Medicaid benefits totaling $10,596 that she received from DSS. Yessika Gana, 59, of Port Washington, was arrested and arraigned on May 13 on charges of Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. Gana was released on her own recognizance by Judge Darcy, and is due back in court on May 22. Gana collected DSS benefits from January 2006 through January 2014 in the form of Medicaid benefits totaling $37,488. DSS received an alert that Gana was residing with the father of her two children during the period and she allegedly failed to notify DSS of his presence in her household as well as his income. Investigation revealed that the income of Gana’s total household would have rendered Gana ineligible as her household income was above the standard of need for a public assistance household of her size. All of the cases were referred to the DA’s office by the Nassau County Department of Social Services for investigation and prosecution. Assistant District Attorney Connie Gentile, chief of Acting DA Singas’ Public Assistance Frauds Unit, is prosecuting the cases. Ventura is represented by John Maccarone, Esq.; Raphael Benabou is represented by Anthony Collelouri, Esq., Donna Benabou is represented by Steven Raiser, Esq.; Sarelis is represented by Chip Seman, Esq.; Chinnery is represented by the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County; Gana is represented by Dennis Lemke, Esq. The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.

 BENABOU DONNA
Donna Benabou
 BENABOU RAPHAEL
Raphael Benabou
 CHINNERY NAISHA
Naisha Chinnery
 GANA YESSIKA
Yessika Gana
 SARELIS CINDY
Cindy Sarelis
 VENTURA ANA
Ana Ventura

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