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Michigan lottery winner kept cashing welfare checks

/ Source: Reuters

A Michigan woman who continued to take food stamp benefits for months after winning $1 million in the state lottery has been charged with welfare fraud, officials said Tuesday.

Amanda Clayton, 25, of Lincoln Park in suburban Detroit, received public assistance through March of this year despite winning $1 million from the Michigan lottery in September, the state attorney general's office said.

Prosecutors accused Clayton of collecting $5,475 in food and medical benefits from August 2011 through March that she would not have received had she reported the lottery winnings and income from a job she held from June through October 2011.

"It's simply common sense that million dollar lottery winners forfeit their right to public assistance," Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a statement.

Clayton was charged on Monday with two counts of welfare fraud. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

A state court judge set bond for Clayton at $10,000 in a court appearance on Tuesday.

It was the second major incident in the past two years where a Michigan resident continued to take food stamp benefits after winning a lottery jackpot. Embarrassed state lawmakers last year vowed to close legal loopholes making that possible.

Michigan law, changed earlier in April, had left it up to aid recipients to report lottery winnings and job income to the state. The law now requires the lottery to report winners of $1,000 or more to the state and allows some asset tests.

The new law "will make it easier to ensure that outrages involving instant millionaires on public assistance don't happen in the future," Maura Corrigan, director of the state human services department, said in a statement.

The incident involving Clayton followed the case of Leroy Fick, a Saginaw-area man who took a lump sum payment from a $2 million lottery jackpot in June 2010 and continued to collect food stamp benefits.