12 charged with stealing food debit cards from disabled

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Kristin Thorne reports on the arrests of 12 people who are accused of stealing nutrition assistance debit cards and using them.

A dozen people on Long Island are accused of stealing nutrition assistance debit cards from people with mental disabilities and using them to buy food for themselves.

Five of the defendants used to work for the non-profit Federation of Organizations based in West Babylon. They were tasked with taking care of people with mental disabilities living at an assisted living facility in Brentwood.

Instead, prosecutors said they stole their clients' Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit cards and used them for themselves or gave them to their family and friends.

"This is a case as the DA has pointed out to you that demonstrates a flagrant and outrageous criminal conduct committed by these defendants," New York Welfare Inspector General Catherine Scott said.

The defendants are identified as Candace Collins, Alexander Coymen, Takemma Dukes, Marla Hayes, Ebony Hicks, Alejandro Khoury, James Newkirk, Sasha Quintanilla, Vipul Shah, Stacia Smith and Vanessa Wilson. Prosecutors said more people could be charged as the investigation is ongoing.

Prosecutors said in total, the defendants spent more than $7,000 buying steak, ribs, Red Bull, king crab legs, candy and other food for themselves.

Federation of Organizations said in a statement to Eyewitness News, "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 defendants are being charged with endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person.

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