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Contracted Probation Officer Arrested After Fraudulently Collecting More Than $19,000 in Public Assistance Benefits

8/22/2017

For Immediate Release:
August 22, 2017
 
Contact: Ashley Carr
(850) 413–2842

 
ORLANDO, Fla. – Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and the Department of Financial Services (DFS) today announced the recent arrest of an Oviedo woman, Kistin Bentley, following her alleged submission of fraudulent applications for public assistance benefits to the Department of Children and Families. As a result of her actions, Bentley received $19,322 in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, also known as food stamps or SNAP, and Medicaid benefits that she did not qualify for.
 
From May 2014 through September 2016, investigators with DFS’ Division of Public Assistance Fraud (DPAF) discovered that Bentley submitted multiple applications for public assistance. On those applications, Bentley stated the only income made available to her household was through her husband’s employment, allowing Bentley to qualify for public assistance.
 
DPAF’s investigation revealed Bentley’s household was not limited to her husband’s income but instead, Bentley was contracted with the Department of Juvenile Justice as a probation officer during the 28-month time period when she submitted the applications. Had Bentley not falsified her income on her application, she would not have qualified for the $19,322 in benefits she received.
 
Over the course of the investigation, Bentley stated she did not submit the applications herself, but social service agents employed with True Health, a local social service agency in Orlando, submitted the applications on her behalf. During interviews with investigators, Bentley claimed she was not good with computers and she did not know how to apply for public assistance. However, she later admitted to submitting at least one application from her work computer and True Health had no records of providing assistance to Bentley.
 
In fact, the investigation went on to reveal Bentley was previously employed at True Health as a certified application counselor. While employed at True Health, her responsibilities included assisting clients in the completion of their public assistance applications and in some cases, submitting the applications on her client’s behalf.
 
Bentley was arrested August 9, 2017, and transported to the Seminole County Jail. She has been charged with one count of public assistance fraud, a third-degree felony.
 
This case will be prosecuted by the Office of State Attorney Phil Archer, 18th Judicial Circuit. If convicted, Bentley faces up to five years in prison.
 
During FY 16/17, DPAF investigations discovered $19,820,913 of fraudulently-issued public assistance benefits and prevented an additional $26,484,197 in benefits from being issued. Consumers who suspect public assistance fraud may be occurring in their community are encouraged to reach out to the Department’s Public Assistance Fraud Hotline by calling 1-866-762-2237. Callers can choose to remain anonymous and information leading to a successful prosecution may be eligible for a cash reward.

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