Woman charged with welfare fraud

A Mesa County woman faces a number of felony charges after she allegedly defrauded the Mesa County Department of Human Services of more than $2,000 in welfare benefits over a four-month period.

Alicia Kissell, 26, 504 1/2 Agape Way, was charged formally last month with one count of theft of between $1,000 and $20,000, one count of attempt to influence a public servant and four counts of forgery. She is due back in court Aug. 23, Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Springer said.

Kissell is accused of stealing $2,445 in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefits between Oct. 1, 2010, and Jan. 31 of this year. TANF is a federal program that provides cash assistance to parents and their children. Further details about the case weren’t immediately available.

Human Services spokeswoman Karen Martsolf said the department receives about 150 referrals for suspected welfare fraud each year. Welfare fraud investigators so far this year have received 94 referrals and completed 71 investigations that uncovered nearly $98,000 in welfare-fraud claims, Martsolf said.

She said the number of welfare-fraud referrals has remained steady and hasn’t been affected by the languishing economy. She emphasized the department investigates all cases.

“The thing we want people to understand is if they intentionally provide false information on an application in order to receive public-assistance benefits, it is a crime, and it’s something we take very seriously, regardless of the dollar amount,” Martsolf said. “Public-assistance dollars are in place for people who genuinely need them.”

Anyone who suspects people of welfare fraud is encouraged to call the county’s welfare-fraud hotline at 970-256-2421.


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