Attorney Says State Violated Privacy Laws
The attorney representing 17 of the 44 state employees accused of fraud for obtaining post-Irene food stamp benefits said the Department of Social Services violated the privacy rights of his clients when a subpoena issued to a bank resulted in the alleged disclosure of their names and Social Security numbers to others also being investigated.
“This proves the Department of Social Services is incapable of investigating the matter themselves,” Rich Rochlin, the attorney representing the state workers, said Tuesday at a news conference. “This is amateur hour.”
He said the two subpoenas he saw from Wells Fargo/Wachovia Bank listed the names and Social Security numbers of 130 other individuals, either accused of fraud or listed as beneficiaries on the application of a state employee. Those names and Social Security numbers were shared with every other Wells Fargo/Wachovia Bank customer who is part of the governments investigation.
One subpoena listed 90 names, while the other listed 40, Rochlin said. He said he was unable to share the subpoenas with the media because of the confidential information embedded in them. He alleged the state should have done the subpoenas individually instead of enmasse to avoid any of these problems.
Andrew McDonald, Malloy’s legal counsel, said the subpoenas that were issued were issued in conformity with the law.
“The financial institution was not obligated to forward it to the customer,” McDonald said. “If they did questions should be asked of those particular financial institutions.”
In total the state sent subpoenas to more than a dozen financial institutions.
According to several state statutes the financial institutions are not required to tell their customers they received subpoenas from the state to look at the balances in their accounts.
“If such subpoena was issued by the Commissioner of Administrative Services or the Commissioner of Social Services pursuant to section 17b-137, 17b-452 or 17b-454, service of such subpoena upon the customer shall not be required,” the statute reads.
A spokesperson for Wells Fargo was not immediately available for comment Tuesday evening.
“Rather than taking the time to issue separate subpoenas, the banks, as required by law, turned over the entire subpoena to the account holder whose records were subpoenaed,” Rochlin said. “As a result of this incompetence, hundreds of D-SNAP recipients’ names and social security numbers have been disclosed to hundreds of others.“
Rochlin alleged that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy owes his clients an apology and needs to hand this investigation over to the legislature’s Human Services Committee for completion.
The state Auditors of Public Accounts are also doing their own investigation into the alleged fraud related to the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program at the request of Sen. Joseph Markley, R-Southington.