Woman gets probation in welfare fraud

KAREN REED-SAMS

A woman who pleaded guilty earlier this week to bilking more than $32,000 in public benefits funds over several years beginning in 2012 was sentenced to six months probation.

Karen Reed-Sams, 67, also must pay full restitution, which totaled more than $33,500.

According to a press release from the Mesa County Department of Human Services, who referred the case to the District Attorney's Office, Reed-Sams illegally obtained about $28,300 from an old-age pension program, more than $3,600 from Medicaid, and $83 in food assistance. She's also on the hook for investigative costs of nearly $1,500.

In addition to the probation sentence and order of restitution, Reed-Sams is disqualified from public food or medical assistance programs.

Reed-Sams allegedly applied for all three public assistance programs in March 2012, just days before she was hired by StarTek Inc., according to an affidavit for her arrest.

Reed-Sams received assistance from that point until August 2013, allegedly without reporting the income from the job.

A warrant was issued for Reed-Sams' arrest in July 2016, but she wasn't arrested until May 2018 out of state. At the time of her arrest, the human services department issued a press release noting that Reed-Sams knew about the warrant and "chose to flee the state and establish residency elsewhere."

"These benefits are in place for people who are eligible and genuinely need them. If you need help, or think you need help, please come and apply," a statement attributed to human services Executive Director Tracey Garchar reads. "When people fraudulently access and utilize public assistance benefits, they are not stealing from Mesa County, they are stealing from all taxpaying citizens."

Anyone who suspects welfare fraud is asked to call the Mesa County Department of Human Services Welfare Fraud Hotline at 256-2421.

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