A Passaic County Board of Social Services employee pleaded guilty to theft and unauthorized use of food stamp funds on Thursday, according to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.
Carol Austin, 62, of Paterson, will be recommended for probation with up to 364 days in the Passaic County Jail by prosecutors as part of a plea deal during sentencing. Authorities alleged she used food stamp benefits that did not belong to her and she was not authorized to use between November 2015 and May 2017.
Austin allegedly used benefits “exceeding $500,” authorities said. Food stamp cards are issued to low-income individuals to help them cover food purchases. She was employed as a clerk at the Passaic County Board of Social Services at the time and had access to food stamp cards that were turned in by clients or their family members.
Judge Adam Jacobs required Austin to forfeit her employment at the Passaic County Board of Social Services and permanently barred her from holding any public office or position of honor, trust or profit within the State of New Jersey, authorities said.
Austin has to pay restitution to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for stolen funds. She was arrested in 2017 by the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office with assistance from the Inspector General for the United States Department of Agriculture.
She is scheduled for sentencing on June 22, 2018.
Austin earned $69,916 salary in her position as clerk, according to public records. She worked as a clerk since 1985.