Former Case Manager for State Welfare Program Pleads Guilty, Sentenced in Connection with Accepting Bribes
BOSTON – A former case manager for a state welfare program commonly known as the “food stamp” program has been sentenced after pleading guilty to soliciting and receiving bribes in return for approving expedited benefits, Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office announced today.
Valerie Herron, age 50, of Roxbury, pleaded guilty on October 4 in Suffolk Superior Court to Receipt and/or Solicitation of a Bribe (9 counts). After the plea was entered, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Regina Quinlan sentenced Herron to serve two years of probation. Herron was also ordered to perform 50 hours of community service and must also pay full restitution in the amount of $2,539. As a result of her guilty plea, Herron also faces the loss of her future pension and any prior contributions made.
The matter was referred to the AG’s Office in February 2010 after Herron’s activities had been initially investigated by the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA). Herron worked in the Dudley Square Office of the DTA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as and commonly referred to as the “food stamp” program. As a case manager for SNAP, Herron was in charge of helping low-income families pay for food through cash benefits administered through the program. In cases of extreme financial need, SNAP administered “expedited,” or emergency benefits to eligible families.
The DTA began their investigation after receiving anonymous tips that Herron would tell applicants for SNAP benefits that she could expedite the application process for a fee. On various dates between March 2009 and July 2009, Herron accepted several bribes from applicants in return for expedited benefits, while denying expedited benefits to an applicant who refused to pay a bribe.
A Suffolk County Grand Jury returned indictments against Herron on September 27, 2010. On October 27, 2010, Herron was arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court at which time she entered a plea of not guilty and was released on personal recognizance. Herron pleaded guilty on October 4 to all charges and was sentenced.
The case was prosecuted by the AG’s Public Integrity Division. In February 2011, AG Coakley announced the formation of the Public Integrity Division - the first division in the office focused exclusively on cases of public corruption and fraud. The Public Integrity Division investigates and prosecutes serious criminal misconduct involving (a) crimes committed against or upon public agencies, (b) corrupt public employees and public entities who engage in or conspire to commit larceny, fraud, bribery, gratuities, and other crimes in which there is a hidden personal financial interest, and (c) crimes that have a corrosive or harmful effect on public confidence in our government and other trusted institutions, including such crimes as perjury and obstruction of justice.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Michael Pine of AG Coakley’s Public Integrity Division and was investigated by Massachusetts State Police assigned to the AG’s Office and Financial Investigator Taylor Glynn of the Financial Investigation Division of the Attorney General’s Office. Victim Witness Advocate Ashley Cinelli also assisted in this case.