Former officer pleads guilty to welfare fraud

A former law enforcement officer and one-time Mesa County sheriff candidate will be sentenced later this month after pleading guilty to illegally drawing public assistance for six years.

Terry Chelius, 68, pleaded guilty to a felony count of attempting to influence a public servant in an agreement in which prosecutors agreed to dismiss felony theft charges and not seek jail time.

Chelius was arrested in May after an investigation conducted by a Mesa County Department of Human Services welfare-fraud investigator.

Court records indicate Chelius, who lived on a 105-acre ranch in Whitewater, obtained $8,000 in food stamps, $3,500 in Medicare Beneficiary Part B premiums and $2,400 from the Low-income Energy Assistance Program.

Authorities said Chelius failed to report income he earned as a School District 51 substitute teacher, royalties from the sale of a book he wrote, his ranch’s $49,000 in annual sales and his ownership of several vehicles and snowmobiles. Bank records showed he paid cash for vehicles, travel, firearms, golfing, fuel, Internet and satellite services, electronics and other items, according to court records.

Chelius, who ran for sheriff in 2002, has paid back the nearly $14,000 in assistance he received from the county between 2001 and 2007.

Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 28.


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