HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut's Department of Social Services is expected to conclude its fraud investigation this week into more than 800 state employees who received special food stamps in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.
The state welfare agency, however, will continue reviewing applications of thousands of non-state employees who received the benefits and who it suspects may have defrauded the federal program by supplying false financial information. The agency plans to refer those cases to state and federal prosecutors.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told his commissioners on Tuesday that DSS will transmit the final cases of suspected fraud to the state's Office of Labor Relations and the workers' respective agency heads by the close of business on Wednesday. He urged his commissioners to act quickly on the remaining cases.
So far, 98 applications from state employees for the aid — which ranged from $200 to $1,200 — have been forwarded. Malloy said four state employees have so far been fired and four workers decided to retire before their disciplinary proceedings were completed. That means 90 employees are now in various stages of disciplinary hearings.
Most state employees who sought the storm-related aid, however, did not use false, misleading or fraudulent information on their applications. Malloy said 686 workers so far have been found to have appropriately filed for the aid. There are about 50,000 total state employees.
"That means the vast majority of state employees who received these federal benefits were honest and reflect the vast majority of state workers as a whole," he said. "They are hardworking and honest."
Irene slammed into the East Coast in late August, knocked out power to more than 9 million homes and businesses, destroyed many homes and roads and killed more than 40 people. More than 800,000 utility customers in Connecticut lost power, some for nine days. After the storm, federal officials sent $12.4 million in additional aid to Connecticut to help low-income people who weren't in the regular food stamp program to replace spoiled food and cover other storm-related costs.
Nearly 24,000 state residents were found eligible for the extra aid, including approximately 800 state employees.
Malloy said it is unclear if any of the fired state workers will face criminal charges. He said that will be up to the prosecutors. The Democratic governor said the state needed to take action as an employer, regardless of whether the cases will lead to criminal prosecution.
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