Couple charged in record case in Mesa County for welfare fraud

Flanked by supporters Tuesday morning, a former Grand Junction couple was formally charged in connection to what officials said is the largest prosecuted case of welfare fraud in Mesa County.

Mesa County Deputy District Attorney Bo Zeerip filed a combined 28 felonies — 14 counts each — of theft between $1,000 and $20,000 against both Tony Padilla Jr., 45, and his wife, Venica, 41.

Tony and Venica Padilla, now Aurora residents, were not arrested in the case. They appeared Tuesday before District Judge Brian Flynn after being served felony summonses. According to court records, they were served with the papers Sept. 28 in Arapahoe County by Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department deputies.

The Padillas on Tuesday told the judge they were still trying to hire attorneys.

Venica Padilla, while employed as a Mesa County Department of Human Services case manager, along with her husband, defrauded more than $53,000 from an adoption subsidy assistance program, while falsely representing that they were financially supporting two adopted daughters, their arrest warrant affidavits alleged.

The alleged fraud happened between September 2003 and November 2009.

Mesa County authorities have said Venica Padilla’s employment with the county ended in October 2010, some two months after she was first questioned by fraud investigators.

The Padillas are scheduled to return to court Nov. 15.


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