Woman busted for illegally collecting public assistance
EAGLE — An Eagle County woman was ordered to repay two years worth of public assistance money after she admitted she was ineligible.
As long as Sharae Allen, 34, repays the $12,406.20 she illegally collected during the course of two years, she’ll avoid a four-year jail sentence. She pleaded guilty to felony theft.
Allen did not report household income that made her ineligible not only for the additional benefits she was seeking but also for the food stamps and Medicaid she was already getting.
A RED FLAG
The Quality Assurance unit in Eagle County’s Health and Human Services Department caught her.
“We take our fiduciary responsibility of taxpayer money very seriously,” said Rita Woods, Eagle County’s Health and Human Services director.
While Allen was collecting payments from other programs, she applied for benefits from yet another program. The application raised a red flag with a Health and Human Services staffer, who notified the Quality Assurance unit, Woods said.
The Quality Assurance unit worked with investigators from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and referred the case to the District Attorney’s Office.
As part of her sentence, Allen will be ineligible to receive benefits for the next four years, but she avoided jail, at least for now. If she fails to pay, she goes to jail for four years. She also has to complete 100 hours of community service.
“We felt it was very fair,” Woods said.
Allen had moved to North Carolina and had to return to Eagle County to deal with the case. During her sentencing hearing, Allen told the judge she was in a rough period of her life and did not make the best choices.
“When cases have discrepancies, it can lead to this,” Woods said.
ABOUT THE QUALITY ASSURANCE UNIT
The county’s Quality Assurance unit reviews 90 cases every month, working with the Colorado Department of Human Services, Woods said.
The Quality Assurance unit was formed earlier this year as a watchdog to make sure financial assistance goes where, and to whom, it should.
While routine checks have always been conducted by caseworkers, Woods said, but the Quality Assurance unit creates more in-depth investigation into potential fraud.
“It is certainly not our intent to scare away folks who need our services,” Woods said. “Rather, we are striving to ensure the right people receive the right benefits.”
Eagle County’s Human Services programs are funded through a combination of local, state and federal allocations.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.