Mother owes $38,000 for welfare fraud
A Fruitvale mother will have two decades to repay more than $38,000 in public assistance which she admitted Wednesday to stealing from the Mesa County Department of Human Services.
Saying a plea agreement in the case of 34-year-old April Creasman was “marginally acceptable,” District Judge Richard Gurley signaled he’d have preferred tougher sanctions in a case he called “reprehensible.”
“You were taking food out of the mouths of people who really needed it,” Gurley said.
Gurley sentenced Creasman to serve 20 years of probation, during which she’ll be prohibited from receiving any food stamp assistance from Mesa County. Creasman could petition the court to shorten the probation term if she pays off $38,636 in restitution. Creasman must complete 200 hours of useful public service in the next five years.
Creasman pleaded guilty to a single count of felony theft. Prosecutors, among concessions in the case, agreed she won’t have to serve jail time.
Creasman, who proclaimed her innocence in the matter during interviews with various local media outlets, said nothing Wednesday when afforded a chance to speak to the judge.
A fraud investigation initiated by Mesa County showed Creasman had failed to report the father of five of her children had been living with her at 478 Fruitwood Drive and supporting her financially as she fraudulently collected $36,362 in food stamps, $834 in Colorado work assistance and $1,321 in Medicaid. The thefts started in January 2008 and continued through April 2012.
The father’s income, had it been reported to the Department of Human Services, would have nixed Creasman’s eligibility.
Records gathered during the investigation showed the father had earned more than $99,000 in gross income during 2011, down from a four-year high of more than $107,000 in 2008. Employment and property records show he lived at 478 Fruitwood Drive and owned the property.
Several of Creasman’s children reported their mother sells her food stamps. Creasman denied the claims.
“I asked why she keeps having children if she can’t afford the ones she already has and she argued she couldn’t help it if her birth control does not work,” an investigator wrote in an arrest warrant affidavit.
Susan Skyberg, fraud investigator with the Department of Human Services, told the judge Creasman was previously investigated for welfare fraud in 2007 involving an unspecified amount of benefits, but the case was dismissed as client error and not pursued.
Creasman applied again for assistance in 2008, which led to the fraud prosecution.