Welfare fraud suspected

A Mesa County Department of Human Services employee whose husband grossed more than $104,000 last year has been charged with stealing welfare benefits of more than $18,000 from the agency she worked for.

Angela Kim Rodriguez, 31, 872 Sabil Drive in Fruita, was formally advised Monday in court on felony charges of theft of up to $20,000, attempting to influence a public official, check forgery, possession of a forged instrument and a misdemeanor charge of perjury.

She is accused of stealing $11,792 worth of food stamps and $6,382 worth of Medicaid benefits from June 2007 to August 2009.

Rodriguez was free Monday from Mesa County Jail in lieu of a $7,500 bond.

According to an arrest affidavit, Rodriguez obtained welfare by reporting that she was separated from her husband and that her sister was paying for household expenses for her and her four children, including a $2,600 monthly mortgage payment.

Rodriguez’ children received vision and dental insurance coverage through their father’s employment with a natural gas drilling company, but the couple opted not to purchase medical benefits.

Rodriguez failed to report bank accounts, vehicles registered in her name and an off-road motorcycle owned by her husband, the affidavit said.

Bank records in the affidavit show out-of-state travel, dining out nearly every day and a multitude of purchased luxury items including gym memberships, hair salon services, jewelry, liquor and tobacco purchased on an ATM card that was labeled with Rodriguez’ name and affixed with her signature.

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 from work done in Africa, according to bank records.

Human Services received a complaint about Rodriguez on June 22, and an investigator began looking into the allegations the same day, the affidavit said.

She was hired at the Mesa County Human Services as a senior case worker for the Child Welfare Division in March 3 but no longer works at Human Services.

A staff member in the county’s personnel department said she could not release Rodriguez’ last day of employment there.

Rodriguez earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in criminal justice, “demonstrating Angela had knowledge of criminal law and its penalties,” the affidavit said.

Human Services receives about 100 referrals a year of possible welfare fraud for its more than 15,000 people in Mesa County who receive some kind of public assistance, said spokeswoman Karen Martsolf.

Anyone who suspects welfare fraud should call the department at 256-2421.


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