ALBION, N.Y. (WIVB) - He's guaranteed a $1,000 a week in lottery winnings, but now an Orleans County man is accused of illegally collecting benefits paid with your tax dollars.
Orleans County officials say a lottery winner is facing serious charges for taking money from the state that is meant for the poor.
Fourteen years ago, 37-year-old Anthony Palermo's dream came true. He won the lottery's "Win for Life" scratch-off game. The Albion man has been collecting $1,000 every week and has collected nearly $750,000 to date.
For the last seven months, he's also been collecting thousands of dollars in state aid meant for the poor.
Orleans County Chief Administrative Office Chuck Nesbitt said, "In Orleans County we take this very seriously and if you want to try and cheat the system, this is not the place to do it."
Nesbitt says the now 51-year-old Palermo began accessing Medicaid, HEAP and Emergency Cash assistance benefits since last September. Nesbitt said he failed to report the $1,000 a week on his applications.
An anonymous tip set off their investigation. Thursday, Palermo was arrested and charged with Welfare Fraud and two other felonies.
Nesbitt in part blames the state's lenient rules when it comes to Medicaid applications.
He explained, "Most recently the state has rolled back some of the requirements in terms of Medicaid eligibility. In fact applicants dont even have to appear in person now. They can fill out an application online and begin receiving Medicaid."
He says it's a big problem and thinks the state could do more.
It's still unclear what motivated Palermo, who's guaranteed at least a million dollars from his winnings. The Lottery says it's unclear if Palermo will still get $1,000 a week for the rest of his life.
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