On Tuesday, Idalia Munoz Morales was sentenced to four years of supervised probation after pleading guilty to felony theft.
Morales, 38, of Carbondale defrauded Garfield County Department of Human Services out of more than $55,000 between 2006 and 2012 by providing false information in her applications for food stamps and medical benefits, according to court documents.
Morales was originally charged with nine counts of theft and forgery.
At Tuesday’s sentencing, assistant district attorney Ann Norton recounted how Morales omitted her husband’s income when applying for benefits and wrote several letters to Human Services under the name “Ricardo,” alleging that she was renting a single room in his house. In truth, the Morales family had purchased a $365,000 home, which has since gone into foreclosure. Norton added that Morales had misrepresented herself on 16 occasions between the application and subsequent recertifications.
“Her fraud, in my estimation, burdens the entire system,” said Norton, “The bottom line in a case like this is that money intended to assist the needy should be applied to those who are entitled to those benefits.”
Public defender Tina Fang countered that the case “invokes a larger question” about government aid. “This family was definitely struggling financially,” she said, citing several hardships — children lost in childbirth, the husband’s garnished paychecks, and myriad health problems. “These are not small medical issues,” she added.
District Chief Judge James Boyd was sympathetic but wasn’t interested in excuses.
“Resources of this type are generally not unlimited resources,” he observed.
Conditions of Morales’ probation include restitution of $55,724.48 and a letter of apology to Garfield County Health and Human Services. The sentence of 30 hours of useful public service will be suspended provided she sets up and maintains a restitution payment plan.