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Court Documents: Fresno County welfare fraud suspect was on heroin

Monday, September 12, 2011

Charges have been filed against a Fresno County social services employee accused of embezzling thousands of dollars in welfare benefits. He's also accused of approving benefits for people who didn't qualify for them.

Michael Martin worked as an eligibility worker for the county for eleven years. He's facing seven felony charges including embezzlement and identity theft Action News reporter Sontaya Rose broke this story ten days ago. The story is now receiving national attention, since documents obtained by Action News, show several people who received food stamps were on last year's Fresno State football team.

The new court documents reveal county social worker Michael Martin was under the influence of heroin when he was arrested at work on August 12. His roommate is also being charged for taking part in the scheme.

According to the criminal complaint against Michael Martin, he embezzled county funds unlawfully and fraudulently.

The documents filed Sunday evening in superior court, also accuse Martin of stealing the identity of a Corcoran state inmate to obtain an EBT card that was sent to Martin's personal residence.

Ten days ago Action News uncovered information that Martin allegedly falsified case records, embezzled benefits for personal use and processed benefits for family members and neighbors.

Among those accused of benefitting are members of the 2010 Fresno State football team. The players have not been named and Fresno State says they are aware of the accusations and fully cooperating. The university claims no NCAA violation has occurred. NCAA officials have not returned our calls for comment.

One Fresno County supervisor says he's disappointed to hear the allegations. And he wants everyone who took advantage of the system to be accountable.

"I think in this case what we are going to see unfold in the next few months, if not year is everyone that benefitted from his actions," said Henry Perea. "I'm sure there will be a process in place to see what they knew about it, were they complicit? We're they tricked into it or at least told that it was ok to do what they are doing?"

The district attorney's office believes Martin's roommate, Dawn Griffin assisted in the crimes. She is charged with nine felony counts of burglary and larceny for going to stores like Target, Foods Co and Vallarta to unlawfully use welfare benefits received through identity theft.

Action News has attempted to reach Martin and Griffin on several occasions. Although his black Mercedes is in his carport, no one answered the door.

Supervisor Perea is calling for more than jail time for Martin, he wants repayment of every dollar given out.

"The bottom line was it's not ok," said Perea. "And I would expect us to go after those individuals to pay that money back to the department of social services and basically the taxpayers of Fresno County."

Martin was booked in the Fresno County jail last month, but released due of overcrowding. He is set to make his first court appearance Tuesday.

Martin has resigned from his job. As for Griffin, Monday night a warrant is out for her arrest.

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Tags:
fresno county, fresno, fresno state bulldogs, fresno state football, california state university fresno, pat hill, local, sontaya rose
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