District attorneys are often pictured in TV and movies prosecuting violent criminals, but a significant aspect of their jobs is taking on less infamous “white collar” crime. New York State’s Crimes Against Revenue Program is once again helping to fund this critical task by providing more than $14 million to district attorneys across the state.
$437,950 of the grant funding will be coming to Erie County in the coming year to fight tax evasion and welfare fraud. It's not the first time the county has received this funding, and Acting District Attorney Michael Flahrety, Jr. said his office is thankful for the grant, which has paid for key personnel.
“We’ve been able to return to the state about 195 percent of the money that the state gives us. So it’s been a very good investment by the state in our office. We are very pleased that we have been able to return that money to the tax payer,” said Flahrety.
Because tax evasion and fraud are crimes where typically only the perpetrator is a witness, Flahrety said prosecuting them can be difficult.
“And if there is a way to hold those people accountable, we can…deter future theft and stop current theft,” said Flahrety. “That’s a win-win for the taxpayer, especially in these times when everyone, every municipality is looking at the books and belts are tightening.”
In addition to exposing those who commit crimes, Flahrety said prosecuting welfare abusers, in particular, prevents them from breaking the law again.
“It knocks them out of the [welfare] program so they’re no longer receiving money. So in addition to obtaining confessions of judgement or repayment, they’re also stopped from receiving benefits in the future, which is an additional savings.”
Suspicious welfare activity is monitored by investigators from the department of taxation who regularly review returns. Flahrety said stealing from taxpayers is a crime that hurts everybody and needs to be prosecuted as vigorously as violent crime.