May 14, 2016

Under oath, state employees say Martinez officials ordered them to change papers to deny food stamps to hungry, poor

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“In a scene of high drama reminiscent of the TV drama “Law and Order,” three prominent state Human Services Department officials invoked their fifth amendment rights nearly 100 times in federal court Friday afternoon…”

A huge new scandal – this time with potential criminal implications – erupted in a Las Cruces courtroom on Friday as a series of Martinez administration officials refused to answer questions under oath in federal court about whether they were directed to change food stamp applications to deny help to children, families and seniors out of food and out of help.

Under oath in the civil hearing, they had two choices: say it didn’t happen or avoid answering the question by admitting that doing so might implicate them in criminal fraud or other actions.

We know Governor Martinez doesn’t get it and, quite frankly, too many New Mexicans give her a pass on decisions that put struggling families farther and farther behind.

We’re not letting that happen again. 

This story has been blowing up our Facebook and website since it was first reported by the NM Political Report, so I came in on a Saturday to get an update and share with our members.

Now we need you to share this report to help more New Mexicans see first-hand what the Martinez administration is doing to our state’s poorest families.

Take a minute to read the report from Joey Peters of the Political Report who was in the courtroom as it went down.

NM Political report

Accusations of widespread fraud at HSD grow while officials plead the fifth

Friday May 13, 2016 by Joey Peters

 

LAS CRUCES — In a scene of high drama reminiscent of the TV drama “Law and Order,” three prominent state Human Services Department officials invoked their fifth amendment rights nearly 100 times in federal court Friday afternoon.

 

U.S. Federal Courthouse in Las Cruces. Screenshot from Google Street.

U.S. Federal Courthouse in Las Cruces. Screenshot from Google Street.

Their refusal to answer questions came directly after sworn testimony from six HSD employees who alleged a widespread practice of fraudulently altering federal food benefits applications.

The practice, according to eight former and current HSD employees who testified in federal court last month and today, amounts to adding false assets to the applications of people who would otherwise qualify for emergency aid from their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps.

“I still don’t understand why I had to falsify assets,” Shar Lynne Louis, a case processor at HSD’s Income Support Division (ISD) office in Gallup who retired last July, said in court.

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