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Albany Pastor, wife, employees charged with welfare fraud

October 27, 2016 11:29 PM

ALBANY - “I know Reverend and he's contributed some very positive things to the community,” said Alice Green, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Justice.

Reverend Edward Smart is a prominent leader in Albany's African American community.

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He serves as pastor of the First Israel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Hamilton Street, the region's oldest black church, which was once a stop on the Underground Railroad.

“Churches are very important in the African American Community,” Green said. “And Reverend Smart represents that,” she said.

But a dark cloud hangs over the church and Rev. Smart amid allegations that he and his wife, Marion, committed welfare fraud.

“Social services and welfare were created to be a safety blanket,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple. “Unfortunately they are vulnerable for fraud,” he said.

The Smarts were arrested and arraigned in Albany City Court today.

Apple said they both face three felony charges, including grand larceny, for falsifying welfare benefits documents with social services and receiving thousands of dollars they weren't entitled to.

“We've also been given information involving possible fraud with the non-for-profit,” Apple said.

That non-profit is the church's Israel Community Service Program.

Apple said his office also received reports of allegations that the Smart's and their employees misused the organization's funds and Smart paid himself $750 a week from its account.

“Now the case is in the hands of the district attorney's office,” Apple said. “A lot of time they look for reimbursement. It could be possible probation. It could be jail time. I don't know,” he said.

“It is something that has touched many people in the community, they're very disturbed by it,” Green said.

Six of the non-profit's employees also face felony charges.

Apple said all eight people received more than $41-thousand in benefits over several years

Still, Green urges the community to let the legal process play out.

“All people who are charged are innocent until proven guilty,” she said.

Credits

Nia Hamm

Copyright 2016 - WNYT-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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