Michigan Lotto Winner Faces Welfare Fraud Charges

In a rather bizarre story, a Michigan woman was arraigned on welfare fraud charges Tuesday after she continued to obtain food stamps after winning a lotto jackpot, according to Yahoo News.

25-year-old Amanda Clayton of Lincoln Park, MI was arrested Monday on 2 felony charges.

If convicted, she could face as much as 4 years in prison.

Clayton did not comment after her arraignment at Lincoln Park’s 25th District Court.

However, her defense attorney Stanley Wise said he hopes to have charges against his client dismissed at her court hearing next Tuesday.

Yet, Wise did not disclose how he plans to free his client from potential jail time.

“She’s upset but she’ll be fine,” Wise added

Clayton won a $1 million jackpot on a Michigan game show called”Make Me Rich!” Instead of taking periodic payments, she chose to immediately take a $735,000 lump-sum pre-tax payment.

Clayton’s story came to the forefront when she told Detroit’s WDIV that she believed that it was permissible to keep using food stamps because she was unemployed.

According to state law, it was Clayton’s responsibility to report her drastic wealth increase to the state’s Department of Human Services within 10 days of receiving the award.

She has since been dropped from the state provided food program.

“It’s simply common sense that million dollar lottery winners forfeit their right to public assistance,” said Attorney General Bill Schuette in a statement Tuesday. “We will continue to work with local, state and federal authorities to uphold state laws intended to ensure wise stewardship of taxpayer dollars.”

Further, Clayton was not the first Michigan lottery winner to continue to receive food stamps, as Leroy Fick, 60, continued to do so after winning an $850,000 lump sum prize in 2010.

However, Fick reported his winnings, but was permitted to continue to receive government assistance because at that time lump-sum awards were excluded from ordinary income under the state program.

The state has since reformed the program by prohibiting any person with more than $5,000 in assets, excluding a car, from participating in the food program.

The change in law is the reason that Clayton has been charged.

I am not exactly sure what Clayton’s legal defense is going to be here. The only fathomable defense that I can think of is ignorance?

However, you can bet that when she received the money from the game show that she received paperwork telling her that she must report her winnings to the state.

Yet, in order to succeed on a fraud charge the state must prove that Clayton intentionally tried to circumvent the state law by continuing to obtain government aid.

It does not seem that it would be worth it to sacrifice jail time for the few dollars that the food stamp program saved her.

It looks like it could come down to the government’s argument that she must have known to report out of common sense versus Clayton’s belief that she did not have to because she was unemployed.

What do you think?

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