(Updated 4:33 p.m.) Anticipating there may be more news about the food stamp fraud, Rich Rochlin, the attorney representing more than 10 of the now 34 accused state employees showed up at a Capitol press conference Thursday where Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that Mark Ojakian will become his next chief of staff.
Malloy declined to take questions about anything aside from Ojakian, but Rochlin stayed behind to talk to the television cameras about his clients and the fraud investigation. Malloy announced that 10 more state employees were being investigated late Thursday afternoon.
“While I’m dismayed that the number of cases of possible fraud continues to climb, I am in no way deterred from moving forward with this investigation as quickly and thoroughly as possible,” Malloy in a statement.
Rochlin, who created the website: takethedsnapchallenge.com to prove his point, said recipients of the post-Irene food stamps were required to fill out a form that no one can fill out “without inquiry.” He alleges that it was Department of Social Services eligibility workers who changed his clients’ applications in order to get them to qualify even when they were truthful about their income.
“It’s not cut and dry like tax fraud,” Rochlin said.
Rochlin took one of the blank applications and went over the Malloy’s spokeswoman Juliet Manalan and started asking her questions about the form and challenged her to fill it out. Manalan politely declined and later called Rochlin a “little odd.”
“He may not be playing with a full deck,” Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communications adviser, said.
Rochlin, who refuses to tell the administration which state employees he represents, continues to call for Malloy to slow down the investigation and take a look at the state agency and the eligibility workers who processed the forms.
He said the Department of Social Services has the “second worst error rate in the nation” and Malloy should tell him and his clients “why he has any ability to be prosecuting this.”
He said DSS doesn’t have enough staff and its technology is lagging. He even alleged the agency hasn’t even entered the nearly 23,000 applications into its computer system.
And Rochlin doesn’t think the federal prosecutors will be looking into fraud involving such small amounts of money.
“The feds don’t have the resources to deal with $600 issues,” Rochlin said. “Any good prosecutor is going to look at the form first and say what did the person swear to.”
Rochlin declined the Malloy administration’s offer Wednesday to waive his clients constitutional rights so the administration could hand their applications over to the media for an investigation.
“Listen folks, lawyers are going to say a lot of things,” Malloy told the media Wednesday. “That’s why there’s a hearing and if it is proven to be true that’s one situation, but reporting on everything anyone says in their defense is going to occupy a lot of your TV time, and a lot of your radio time, or a lot of your press time if that’s the road you want to go down.”
“They have the right to raise whatever issues they want to raise in these proceedings, but saying something doesn’t make it true,” Malloy added.
Rochlin said he is currently representing his clients pro-bono because he feels they’re being “railroaded” by the Malloy administration.
Rochlin said his clients work for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Department of Correction, Department of Children and Families, and Department of Developmental Services. He does not represent the four state troopers being investigated for the fraud.
Rochlin authored this letter to Malloy’s chief legal counsel Andrew McDonald Thursday afternoon.