August 24, 2011

$8 Million Food Stamp Fraud Mastermind Pleads Guilty To Scam

New York Daily news
written by Scott Shifrel
Wednesday August 10, 2011

A city worker who masterminded a scam that netted millions of dollars by creating phantom food stamp recipients pleaded guilty in Manhattan Federal Court Wednesday.

Vanee Sykes, 44, an employee of the city Human Resources Administration, was the last of four dominoes to fall in the $8 million rip-off, which authorities busted last year.

"This defendant abused her city position to become the ringleader of a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud, churning out more than 1,000 fake food stamp cases and pocketing taxpayer funds," said Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn.

"With her guilty plea, she is now a convicted felon and faces possible prison time."

Sykes, of Brooklyn, who has worked for the city since 1989, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and mail fraud.

She admitted she pocketed the money after she "created fraudulent food stamp cases. They didn't exist. The clients weren't real."

Mail fraud carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. But under the terms of a plea deal with prosecutors, Sykes likely faces between five-and-a-quarter and six-and-a-half years in the slammer.

The city Human Resources Administration suspended Sykes following her arrest in December, officials said.

She returned to work following the suspension, but was reassigned to clerical duties; she was prohibited from having contact with food stamp recipients and was deprived of access to client files and databases, the officials said.

Now that she has pleaded guilty to the charges, the agency will move to fire her, DOI sources said.

Sykes' fellow conspirators, Alice Bradford, 50 and Tori Jackson, 34, both of Brooklyn and Lois Johnson, 57, of Staten Island, all pleaded guilty earlier this year. Each faces up to three years in prison, prosecutors said.

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