Former police officer gets probation over fraudulent welfare payments
A former law enforcement officer who illegally took nearly $14,000 in welfare assistance while living a lavish lifestyle was sentenced Tuesday to three years probation and must serve 150 hours of community service.
Terrance Scott Chelius, 69, of Grand Junction, who appeared “contrite and humble” Tuesday, according to the prosecutor in the case, was sentenced by Mesa County District Judge Brian Flynn.
On Oct. 1, Chelius, who had been charged with multiple felony charges of perjury, making false statements to a public official and attempting to influence a public servant, pleaded guilty to one felony charge of attempting to influence a public servant.
Deputy District Attorney Chris Nerbonne said Chelius has since paid back the $13,840 in food stamps, energy assistance dollars and Medicare he illegally received for up to six years.
“We’ve gotten what we wanted to get,” Nerbonne said. “All things considered, I think it was a fair outcome.”
According to Chelius’ affidavit, bank records show evidence of him freely spending on liquor, fine dining, tobacco, jewelry, sporting supplies, travel, firearms, golf, a boat, horses, cattle, four-wheelers and several vehicles and having large amounts of cash on hand, which is “not indicative of a person in need of public assistance.”
An investigation by the Mesa County Department of Human Services revealed that Chelius, a Navy veteran who spent nearly 30 years in law enforcement, including stints as a Colorado State Patrol trooper and the Lyons Police Chief, at one point told DHS officials he was “uneducated and disabled.”
He claimed to live in Maine while he listed his Whitewater ranch, Chief’s Rest Ranch Inc., and several vehicles in his daughter’s name, the affidavit said. The 105-acre ranch later sold for more than $500,000.
Chelius told authorities his income came solely from Social Security. He did not report income earned while working as a substitute school teacher for School District 51, nor did he report that he and his wife had split while he received food stamps, which would have lowered his benefits, the affidavit said.
Chelius, a candidate for Mesa County Sheriff in 2002, also failed to disclose a monthly veterans’ disability payment and several bank accounts with the Denver Police Credit Union.
DHS spokeswoman Karen Martsolf said the crimes Chelius was accused of committing take benefits away from people who genuinely need them.