GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- There are more people on food stamps than ever before, with the latest reports showing 15 percent of our country using the program. So while your tax dollars pay for billions of dollars in government assistance, you're also paying for some people who are cheating the system, including right here in Mesa County.
April Creaseman was arrested after welfare investigators suspect she stole $38,517,54 from federal programs. According to her arrest affidavit, she even sold some of her food stamps, leaving her eight children malnourished.
For the department of human services, this is just one of hundreds of cases they investigate each year, where someone is taking your tax dollars and using them illegally.
"Public assistance fraud is a crime, it's something that we take very seriously," said Karen Martsolf, public information officer for the Mesa County Department of Health and Human Services.
According to the arrest affidavit, Creasman, who has eight children, failed to report that the father of five of her kids lived with her, never reporting his income either, which totals more than $355,000 during the four years investigators say she's been de- frauding the system.
The department of human services says tips helped them bust Creasman.
"We encourage people to encourage suspected welfare fraud, and if they see something that is not quite right, we encourage them to call, and we can look into that and see if it warrants opening an investigation," Martsolf said.
In this case, it did, investigators finding Creasman stole $38, 517.54 worth of public assistance, $36,362.00 worth of food stamps, $834.00 from Colorado Work and $1,321.74 from Medicaid.
According to the affidavit, a separate child abuse case is open against Creasman, who also goes by Amanda Dawn Wells, and seven of her kids have been taken away, malnutrition being a factor in that child welfare case, even with Creasman receiving $1,200 a month in food stamps.
While Creasman has been released on $7,500 bond, human services officials said the department will continue to prosecute people who steal from the system, already doing 137 investigations this year in Mesa County.
"We want to ensure that number one we're being good stewards of taxpayer money, but that also we're maintaining the integrity of these public assistance programs,” Martsolf said.
Another interesting bit of information from this case, according to the affidavit, while investigating Creasman at their offices, she pulled out an Apple iPad, something investigators say is unusual for someone needing public assistance.
The department of human services receives 150 - 200 referrals for suspected welfare fraud a year. If you suspect someone, you’re encouraged to call the welfare fraud hotline, at 970-256-2421.