12 accused of stealing welfare benefits from people with disabilities

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A dozen people are accused of stealing thousands of dollars' worth of welfare benefits from people with mental disabilities and spending the proceeds on steak, seafood and other items.

Calling it a case of flagrant greed, Suffolk prosecutors on Monday announced the arrests of the 12 suspects for allegedly stealing food stamps from the mentally disabled at the Sunken Meadow Residence in Brentwood.

"People who were put in positions of trust took advantage of those individuals with disabilities, mental disabilities, for their own personal gain," says Suffolk DA Tim Sini.

MORE: Long Island Crime Coverage

Investigators say five of the suspects are former or current employees of the Federation of Organizations, which runs Sunken Meadow Residence. The other suspects are their family and friends.

Prosecutors say the suspects stole the disabled clients' Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program welfare benefits and went on shopping sprees at various stores, including the Sam's Club in Medford.

Investigators say they have receipts showing how the suspects racked up large foods bills with the stolen food stamps, totaling a whopping $8,000. The money was allegedly used to purchase items including Red Bull energy drinks, king crab legs, spare ribs and steak.

A worker at Sunken Meadow Residence declined to comment and referred News 12 to a company spokesman.

The Federation of Organizations issued a statement that says, "We have a zero-tolerance policy regarding the alleged conduct and we are providing the authorities with all requested and relevant information. In addition, we have taken all appropriate measures to ensure the safety of our clients, whose welfare is paramount."

The state welfare inspector general says steps are being taken to strengthen the supervision and management of the food stamp program for the residents.

The 12 suspects are due to be arraigned on Aug. 14.

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