Only on 11 News.. A former law enforcement officer and substitute teacher has pleaded guilty to charges related to welfare fraud.
We first told you about Terrence Chelius in May and the allegations that he had taken nearly $15,000 in food stamps and Medicare.
68–year–old Terrence Chelius pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to influence a public servant, a felony, on Wednesday.
It stems from false information he gave when applying for welfare over a seven year period.
Since the case started almost six months ago, more people are coming forward to report welfare fraud.
"In my heart I know I've done wrong and i'm ready to fess up," Chelius told 11 News in May.
In an exclusive interview he admitted to abusing the welfare system
and Wednesday in court, by pleading guilty, he admitted the same to a judge.
The 68–year–old said he felt embarassed and has since paid back every dime-- $3,500 for medicare, ,more than $2,400 for electric bills and nearly $8,000 food stamps from 2001 to 2006.
Court documents show during that time his ranch was pulling in $49,000 a year, he was getting more than $2,000 in VA benefits and working part–time as a substitute teacher for District 51.
The arrest affidavit also says he owned at least four cars, a utility trailer and three ATV's.
Karen Martsolf with the Mesa County Department of Human Services calls it one of the worst cases of welfare fraud she's ever seen but says this case is helping to catch others trying to cheat the system.
"There is a heightened awareness of welfare fraud because of this case but also because people are being more diligent."
Martsolf says since the department opened the Welfare Fraud Hotline in June fraud referrals have doubled.
But even though people cheat the system, Martsolf says it is a very small number.
Out of 28,000 clients a year the department gets 100 fraud referrals and out of those only 60 turn out to be fraudulent.
"For the most people who are receiving the benefits are doing so legitimately," said Martsolf.
She says those are the people that suffer when people like Terry Chelius take money they don't need.
And that's why Chelius told 11 News he'll never forgive himself.
"I hope someone, somewhere will forgive me."
Mesa County Welfare Fraud Investigators say between June of 2007 and May of this year they've recovered more than $52,000.
Right now they're working to recover another $61,500 in 16 other cases.
The department is also working to hire a second investigator to work on 10 active investigations and another 45 pending fraud referrals.
Terry Chelius is out of jail on a $7,500 bond. He is scheduled for sentencing later this month.
Welfare Fraud Hotline (970) 256-2421