A man who abused his authority to extort money from welfare recipients awaits justice in a N.J. Fedral Court. Image: Tim Green aka atoach/Flickr/CC BY

A New Jersey man pleaded guilty in court Tuesday for using his job as a public assistance caseworker to extort money from clients. He told clients their benefits would be cut off if they did not pay him kickbacks.

Caseworker pleads guilty

Walter Payton, 54, of Bayonne, N.J., appeared in federal court Tuesday and pleaded guilty to one charge of attempted extortion “induced by wrongful use of fear of economic harm and under color of official right,” according to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.

Worked for Family Services for nine years

Payton had worked for Hudson County Department of Family Services, Division of Welfare and Workforce Development, for nine years. He was responsible for processing applications for food stamps, Medicaid and cash assistance. According to the complaint, in September 2010 Payton threatened to cut off a man’s benefits if the man did not pay him $200. The man, who is married with two children, had only the month before started receiving monthly family benefits of $280 in cash and $330 in food stamps.

The man, according to the report, said he could not afford the payment. Payton allegedly told him that none of the other benefit recipients had trouble paying.

Another demand

A week later, Payton demanded anther $200. The man asked for more time to pay. Payton agreed, and a few days later the money was exchanged. At that time, Payton told his victim that there would be no more payments required and that his benefits would continue.

Although it is not clear in reports, it is assumed that the unnamed man in the case reported Payton to the authorities.

Man admits extorting other clients

According to Fishman, Payton admitted to asking other clients for kickbacks on at least four other occasions during his nine years of employment with the welfare agency. The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine. Judge Esther Salas scheduled the sentencing for Dec. 19.


New Jersey Newsroom: http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/state/bayonne-welfare-employee-pleads-guilty-to-attempted-extortion-of-clients
NJ.com: http://www.nj.com/hudson/index.ssf/2011/09/hudson_county_welfare_worker_a.html
Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/07/welfare-case-worker-walte_n_952631.html?ref=dumb-criminals#s355348&title=Vampire_Josephine_Smith

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