Suffolk social services worker fraudulently obtained benefits for family, Sini says

A Suffolk County Department of Social Services examiner utilized her position to fraudulently obtain $5,000 in benefits, including food stamps, for her parents and grandmother, according to District Attorney Timothy Sini.

Paola Masi, 30, of Patchogue, was charged Monday with third-degree corrupting the government, third- and fourth-degree grand larceny, public corruption, third- and fourth-degree welfare fraud and first-degree tampering with public records. She was released on her own recognizance.

“This individual allegedly used her position of trust and her knowledge of the system to steal more than $5,000 from Suffolk County taxpayers that was meant for families truly in need,” Sini said. “This kind of scheme goes directly against our duties as public servants.”

Ian Fitzgerald of Central Islip, Masi’s defense attorney, declined to comment.

Masi’s father, Luis Bustamante, 62, of Brentwood, was also arrested and charged in connection with the scheme.

He was charged Tuesday with third-degree corrupting the government, fourth-degree grand larceny, public corruption and fourth-degree welfare fraud, and released on his own recognizance, authorities said.

Bustamante is represented by the Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Masi, who has worked as a social services examiner since 2013, was responsible for evaluating applications to determine if an individual met the terms to be eligible for benefits.

In 2018 and 2019, Masi manipulated the department’s welfare management system to falsely qualify her mother, father and grandmother for benefits, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, prosecutors said.

Masi deleted electronic notices that would have alerted the social services department that her parents earned income during the period when they were applying for benefits, prosecutors said. She also fraudulently obtained SNAP benefits for her grandmother by falsely certifying her eligibility before the certification process began, officials said.

Bustamante is due back in court Jan. 25 while Masi is next scheduled to appear Jan. 28.