My wife stole $80K in benefits, man tells Albany County

A marital dispute has mushroomed into an $80,000 mystery, authorities say.

Albany County is investigating allegations of welfare fraud after a man walked into the Department of Social Services office Tuesday afternoon with a bag stuffed with $79,600 — all in $100 bills — and claimed his wife had fraudulently collected it from the county, Sheriff Craig Apple said.

Apple said the story provided to investigators was this: The couple had apparently quarreled and during the row the woman, 45, threatened to report her husband, 33, for being in the country illegally before storming out of their Washington Avenue home.

Once the woman had left, the man countered by taking the stash of cash from the closet and heading down to the DSS office on Washington Avenue, where he handed it over and claimed she had collected the money illegally while also working as a cleaner, Apple said. “He brought it in and gave it to them, and they were all like, ‘Huh?'” Apple said.

The man was insistent he would not leave with the money, forcing DSS to call in the sheriff’s office to take custody of the alleged illicit bounty.

“Initially she’s claiming that the money is from a house she sold in Mexico,” the sheriff said, adding that authorities were skeptical of that account. “We don’t know that a crime has been committed,” Apple said. “Our investigators are trying to get to the bottom of it to see if they can trace the cash.”

Among other leads, Apple said investigators are attempting to track down the woman’s cleaning clients.

News of the case broke Wednesday when County Executive Dan McCoy’s office released a carefully worded statement confirming the money had been turned over to authorities and an investigation launched.

Mary Rozak, a spokeswoman for Albany County, said she could not disclose more about the case because of that inquiry.

“Our DSS investigators have launched an examination,” McCoy said in a statement. “They take every tip seriously and have uncovered tens of thousands of dollars of fraudulent claims over the past several years that have resulted in restitution paid to Albany County.”

Rozak said investigators working for DSS detected $170,821 in fraud last year and won $105,560 in restitution payments.

Another $2.4 million in potential fraud was avoided through early detection, she said.