Welfare case worker pleads in attempted extortion

A Hudson County welfare case worker admitted today to attempting to extort welfare recipients, according to officials, by threatening to terminate their benefits. Bayonne resident Walter Payton, 54, pleaded guilty to attempted extortion induced by wrongful use of fear of economic harm and under color of official right, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said in a press release.

Payton was employed as a welfare case worker by the Hudson County Department of Family Services, Division of Welfare and Workforce Development for approximately nine years, according to the release, processing applications for food stamps, Medicaid, and cash assistance.

Last year, officials said, Payton demanded and received $200 from a person on welfare with a threat of terminating the victim’s benefits. He also admitted that he demanded similar extortion payments from four other Hudson County welfare recipients.

The attempted extortion charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and Payton’s sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 19.