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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Monsey man pleads guilty to section 8 fraud

NEW CITY — A Monsey man who admitted to stealing $157,000 in federal rental subsidies, food stamps and Medicaid benefits was sentenced in Rockland County Court on Friday to five years' probation.

Benjamin Ruttner, 59, of 5 School Terrace has repaid about $150,000 of the stolen money, Executive Assistant District Attorney Gary Lee Heavner said.

Though Ruttner pleaded guilty to a felony count of second-degree grand larceny Jan. 7 and could have been sentenced by Judge Charles Apotheker to time in prison, Heavner said his office's primary concern in cases like this is restitution.

Heavner said that Ruttner will have to repay the remaining $7,000 over the course of the next two years and will lose his eligibility for certain public benefits.

"We have a felony conviction on this man that will affect him for the rest of his life," Heavner said, adding that about half of Ruttner's restitution will go directly to Rockland and the other half will go to the federal government.

No one answered the telephone at Ruttner's home Friday, but Kenneth Gribetz, Ruttner's defense attorney, described Apotheker's sentence as compassionate.

"This is a man who had no criminal intent," Gribetz said of Ruttner, a father of 12.
"If he had acted in proper fashion, he would have been entitled to Section 8 benefits and other benefits that he did receive .

Gribetz added that his client is contrite and realized he had acted improperly.

In the months leading up to Ruttner's November 2009 arrest, authorities charged about 60 others with stealing various amounts of money from numerous government subsidy programs. The crackdown, which began in June 2008, was a joint effort by the District Attorney's Office and the Department of Social Services.

Heavner said the crackdown has served as a deterrent to people who may have considered abusing public benefits programs and netted Rockland hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution payments.

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