Ex-county employee sentenced for welfare fraud
A former Mesa County Department of Human Services employee whose husband earned more than $104,000 in a year has been sentenced to 10 years on probation for stealing more than $18,000 in welfare benefits.
Under the terms of a sentence handed down Monday, Angela Rodriguez, 31, of Fruita, must also perform 600 hours of community service, pay full restitution and can never receive food stamps again in Mesa County, Department of Human Services spokeswoman Karen Martsolf said.
Rodriguez pleaded guilty to a single felony count of forgery. All other charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
Rodriguez obtained $11,792 worth of food stamps and $6,382 worth of Medicaid benefits between June 2007 and August 2009 by reporting she was separated from her husband and that her sister was paying for household expenses for her and her four children, according to court records.
She failed to report bank accounts, vehicles registered in her name and an off-road motorcycle her husband owned. Bank records showed she had traveled out of state, was dining out nearly every day and purchasing a variety of luxury items including gym memberships, hair salon services, jewelry, liquor and tobacco, according to court records.
Records showed Rodriguez’ husband was laid off from his work in the energy industry but was receiving $475 a week in unemployment and monthly checks of $8,000 to $10,000 in wire transfers from Nigeria for work done in Africa.
The Department of Human Services began investigating Rodriguez after receiving a complaint about her last June. She was arrested in September.
“Our primary mission is to connect those who are eligible to the assistance they need to become self-sufficient, and people should not be fearful or afraid to apply for benefits,” Department of Human Services Executive Director Len Stewart said in a statement. “At the same time, the sentencing (Monday) reinforces the fact that public-assistance fraud is a crime and will not be tolerated in Mesa County.”
The county receives about 100 referrals a year of possible welfare fraud, Martsolf said.
County Human Resources Director Sandy Perry said Rodriguez was hired in March 2009 and ended her employment in September. She wouldn’t say whether Rodriguez voluntarily resigned or was fired.