Ex-caseworker, husband get jail terms for welfare scam
A former Mesa County Department of Human Services caseworker and her husband were led out of Judge Brian Flynn’s courtroom Wednesday morning in handcuffs, each sentenced to jail time following guilty pleas in one of the largest welfare prosecutions in Mesa County history.
Venica Padilla, 42, will serve a 30-day sentence in the Mesa County jail, while her husband Tony Padilla Jr., 46, was slapped with a 90-day sentence by Judge Flynn on Wednesday.
“Serious cases deserve serious consequences,” Flynn said just before handing down the sentences.
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.
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. She also worked for one year in the state Department of Human Services.
“She was in a position of trust,” Flynn said of the former caseworker. “She very much took advantage of that.”
Tony Padilla received a longer jail sentence based on his prior criminal history, having been convicted of four prior felonies before this, his fifth felony conviction.
He’ll serve 10 years probation after completing his jail sentence.
Venica Padilla has no prior criminal history, and received a four-year deferred judgment in addition to her 30-day jail term, meaning she could potentially erase the conviction if she stays out of trouble over the next four years.
Both Padillas are on the hook to reimburse taxpayers for the more than $53,500 taken as part of the fraud scheme.
Citing a recent news story that pegged average annual wages in Mesa County right around that same amount, Flynn added, “It takes a whole household a whole year to make the amount that the Padillas stole. This is a significant amount of money.”
— Paul Shockley contributed to this report.