LINCOLN PARK (WWJ) - A Lincoln Park mom who continued to receive food stamps after winning a $1 million lottery prize has been charged with two felony counts of welfare fraud after failing to report her winnings to the state.
Attorney General Bill Schuette said 25-year-old Amanda Clayton is facing two counts of Welfare Fraud – Failure to Inform, a felony punishable by up to four years in prison.
Clayton stood silently during her arraignment Tuesday at Lincoln Park’s 25th District Court. Defense lawyer Stanley Wise said he hopes to have charges dismissed at her next court hearing on April 24. He didn’t elaborate.
Schuette said investigation revealed that Clayton received public assistance from August 2010 through March 2012, but was employed from June 2011 through October 2011. It’s alleged that income from Clayton’s employment during that time period was never reported to Department of Human Services officials, as required by state law.
Additionally, on September 12, 2011, Clayton won a $1 million jackpot in the “Make Me Rich!” game show sponsored by the Michigan Lottery. It is alleged Clayton also failed to report the lottery winnings as income.
Schuette said as a result, from August 2011 through March 2012, Clayton allegedly collected approximately $5,475 in food and medical assistance benefits for which she would otherwise have been ineligible.
The mother of two was removed from the state’s food assistance program after her story became widely publicized in March. She had been receiving about $200 a month in food aid.
“We can’t cheat, we can’t take advantage, and when you do that it really robs the taxpayers and it robs those who are in great need of help for a period of time from the state. So, there are issues that are right or wrong, this is wrong, and that’s why we filed the charges,” said Schuette.
“The fact is, if you’ve won the lottery you ought not to be receiving money from hard-working taxpayers. That’s the message we’ve sent and that’s the message that we’ll continue to send in our state,” he continued.
Clayton, who bought a new home and a car with her winnings, has said she feels entitled to the welfare handout.
“I thought that they would cut me off, but since they didn’t, I thought maybe it was okay because I’m not working … I feel that it’s okay because I mean, I have no income and I have bills to pay. I have two houses … It’s just hard, you know. I’m struggling,” she told WDIV.
Clayton said she didn’t actually get the full million, because after she took a lump sum, the total dropped down to $700,000 — and after taxes, it was just more than half a million.
On April 11, Governor Rick Snyder signed new legislation requiring the Michigan Lottery to notify the DHS about any lottery winners awarded $1,000 or more within seven days. The legislation also provided for specific asset tests to help determine eligibility for some public assistance programs.
Clayton was not charged under the new laws, because her alleged crimes took place in 2011.