March 30, 2011 1:05:00 PM
Two Columbus women were among four Mississippi residents charged with welfare fraud, the state Department of Human Services said.
Close to $24,000 in fines and restitution were levied against those trying to defraud the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program, the DHS said.
Shanda L. Bates of Columbus was indicted by the Lowndes County Grand Jury for welfare fraud. Bates entered a guilty plea in Lowndes County Circuit Court where she was ordered to pay $7,803 in fines and restitution. She was sentenced to serve three years suspended with three years of probation and was permanently disqualified from receiving SNAP benefits because this was her third program violation.
Sheila Harris, also of Columbus, entered a guilty plea in Lowndes County Justice Court where she was ordered to pay $1,545 in fines, assessments and restitution. Harris was also disqualified from the program permanently as this was her third program violation.
Bertha H. Moore of Winona was charged with welfare fraud and ordered to pay $2,965 in fines, assessments and restitution. She was disqualified from receiving SNAP benefits for a 24-month period because this was her second program violation.
Churie Robinson of Canton was indicted by the Madison County Grand Jury for welfare fraud. Robinson entered a guilty plea and was ordered to pay court costs, fees, assessments and restitution totaling over $11,635. She will serve five years supervised probation with MDOC to be non-adjudicated if the probation terms are met. Robinson was disqualified from receiving benefits for a 12-month period because it was her first program violation.
SNAP disqualification periods are determined by state and federal mandates and/or can be ordered by the court. SNAP fraud is normally the result of the client withholding income or household information that would deem them ineligible to receive welfare benefits.
The MDHS, Office of Fraud Investigations is charged with detection, investigation and verification of alleged fraud in federal public assistance programs administered by MDHS. During State Fiscal Year 2010, the office handled 1,829 suspected program violations and recovered $1,972,292.
Ken Palmer, director for the Office of Fraud Investigations said, "MDHS wants the public to be aware that it is a criminal offense to give false information in order to receive any type of federal or state benefits. Anyone found in violation of these federal and state laws can serve up to three years in the state penitentiary, face fines up to $10,000 and be subject to suspension from receiving additional benefits."