Couple owes $53,000 after welfare fraud, judge decrees
District Judge Brian Flynn has ruled a former Mesa County Department of Human Services caseworker and her husband must repay $53,512 in restitution stemming from one of the largest welfare fraud prosecutions in Mesa County’s history.
Aurora residents Venica Padilla, 42, and her husband, Tony Padilla Jr., 46, will owe the combined restitution to the Mesa County Department of Human Services, Flynn said in an order issued Friday.
The Padillas had disputed the District Attorney Office’s request for full restitution in the case.
The Padillas were charged in September 2011 of defrauding an adoption subsidy program of more than $53,000 by claiming they were financially supporting two adopted daughters between September 2003 and November 2009, according to arrest warrant affidavits.
An investigation showed the Padillas took assistance despite the fact the two girls in question weren’t living in their home, the affidavits said. They didn’t financially support the girls’ caretakers, either, prosecutors alleged.
In his written order, Flynn said examination of the case by Department of Human Services fraud investigator Susan Skyberg was “well thought-out and thorough.”
“Her conclusions with regard to the amount of restitution being sought on behalf of the Mesa County Department of Human Services are supported by the results of her investigation,” the judge said.
The couple, both free on bond, are scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in Flynn’s courtroom.
Both pleaded guilty in January to single counts of felony theft under plea agreements with the District Attorney’s Office. Venica Padilla’s plea agreement each call for probation and a four-year deferred judgment. The deferred judgment means she could potentially erase the conviction if she stays out of trouble over the next four years..
Tony Padilla’s plea agreement calls for probation.
The Mesa County Department of Human Services said the Padilla case, when filed in September 2011, was believed to be the largest public-assistance fraud investigated by the agency and referred for prosecution.
Venica Padilla, a senior case manager with the Department of Human Services’ child welfare division, was employed by Mesa County for 13 years before leaving in October 2010, approximately two months after she was first questioned in the fraud investigation. She was a case manager between March 1994 and April 2005, before rejoining the organization in May 2007.
Padilla also worked one year for the child welfare division of the Colorado Department of Human Services.
Gordon Gallagher, Tony Padilla’s attorney, declined comment Monday when contacted about Flynn’s restitution order.
Attorney Andrew Peters, who represents Venica Padilla, couldn’t immediately be reached.