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Chautauqua County couple faces welfare fraud charges

A Chautauqua County couple faces welfare fraud and other charges after authorities said they lied about their income.

Melissa S. Gifford, 30, and Raul A. Alvarez, 35, received almost $3,900 in food stamps they weren’t entitled to between March and August of last year, the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office said.

The pair, of Panama-Bear Lake Road in Panama, were each charged Thursday with third-degree welfare fraud, third-degree grand larceny, misuse of food stamps of more than $3,000 and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing.

Gifford falsely reported that Alvarez lost his job, a statement that boosted her monthly food stamp benefit from $16 to $649. Alvarez and Gifford also reported no income on a Medicaid recertification forms even though Alvarez never lost his job and continued working full-time, authorities said.

Their arrests came after a joint investigation by the Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Program Integrity Unit.

They are scheduled to be arraigned May 26 in Jamestown City Court.

Cases of suspected welfare fraud may be reported by calling 1-800-388-5365.