A Bayonne man working for the Hudson County Department of Family Services pleaded guilty Tuesday to using his position as a food stamp, Medicaid, and cash assistance caseworker to extort money from clients, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
According to the criminal complaint, Walter Payton, a nine-year employee of the Division of Welfare and Workforce Development, threatened to sever the benefits of a Jersey City recipient if the victim, who is married with two children, did not pay him $200. In August 2010, the victim and his family began receiving benefits of approximately $280 per month in cash and $330 per month in food stamps. The following month, Payton called the victim into his office and wrote on a piece of paper that he wanted $200. When the recipient told Payton he could not afford to pay that, Payton told him that no one else had any problems paying.
A week later, Payton again demanded $200 from the victim and said the victim's benefits would be terminated if he did not comply. The man later telephoned Payton asking for more time to gather the money and Payton agreed. Several days later, Payton called the victim telling him to meet Payton at a location near the social services building in Jersey City. After Payton collected the money, he informed the victim that no additional payments were needed and that the victim’s benefits would not be terminated.Fishman said Payton, 54, admitted to demanding money from four other Hudson County welfare recipients during his employment with the County agency. The attempted extortion charge to which Payton pleaded guilty to before Judge Esther Salas in Newark federal court carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine, according to FBI.gov.
Zahid N. Quraishi of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark represented the government. David Holman, Assistant Federal Public Defender, served as defense counsel for Payton, whose sentencing is scheduled for December 19, 2011.