Amanda Clayton, who admitted to receiving public food assistance after winning $1 million in the state lotto, was arrested Monday evening in Michigan on two felony counts of welfare fraud. Clayton, of Lincoln Park, Mich., failed to report her winnings and employment while receiving $5,475 in food and medical assistance, the state Attorney General said.
"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. "We will continue to work with local, state and federal authorities to uphold state laws intended to ensure wise stewardship of taxpayer dollars."
Michigan public assistance programs require participants to report income and employment
Clayton, 25, was cut off from state food aid last month following a report in which she acknowledged to WDIV-TV that she was continuing to get $200 in monthly food aid, given by the state through a "Bridge Card." Clayton won $1 million on Sept. 12 in the "Make Me Rich!" game show, sponsored by the Michigan lottery.
She received $5,475 in public food and medical assistance from August 2011 through March. She was employed from June 2011 through October 2011, an investigation from the the state's Department of Human Services found. The state Attorney General's office alleges that income during that time from her employment, which was not specified, was never reported to DHS officials, as required by state law.
During her arraignment on Tuesday, a district court judge set bond at $10,000 for Clayton, who was in police custody since Monday night. A welfare participant's failure to inform the state's Department of Human Services is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison. Clayton is due in court for a preliminary examination on May 1.
Department of Human Services' (DHS) director, Maura Corrigan, issued a statement last month regarding "a person (now no longer receiving benefits) who remained on food assistance after winning a lottery jackpot."
"Under DHS policy, a recipient of food assistance benefits must notify the state within 10 days of any asset or income change," the statement read. "DHS relies on clients being forthcoming about their actual financial status. If they are not, and continue to accept benefits, they may face criminal investigation and be required to pay back those benefits."
Clayton is not the only lottery winner in Michigan who admitted to receiving food aid from the state.
LeRoy Fick, who won almost $2 million in the state's Make Me Rich! lottery in June 2010, admitted to using a Bridge Card in May 2011. Flick received a lump sum of $998,570 from his winnings.
He pled guilty last month to unrelated criminal charges including multiple counts of illegal possession of fireworks and operating a motor vehicle on a restricted license.
Fick's admission to receiving public assistance sparked local Republican legislator Rep. Dale Zorn to create legislation prohibiting lottery and gambling winners from receiving public aid such as food help and home heating assistance.
Michigan DHS now has the ability to verify a person's lottery winnings in determining benefit eligibility because of Zorn's bills, which were passed by the state's House in February. The law requires the Michigan Lottery to notify the DHS of winners receiving over $1,000 within seven days and checking winners' assets.
The Senate passed the bills last month and the governor signed them into law on April 11. Zorn said his constituents have shown an outpouring of support for the law, and the state's Deparmtment of Human Services and Michigan Lottery have said they support the legislation.
Clayton was not charged under the new laws, because her alleged crimes took place in 2011.
Andi Brancato, the Michigan Lottery's public relations director, said the state lottery officials "have no objection" to the proposed law, "but we need the legislative authority to provide that information to the Department of Human Services."
Asked for a comment regarding lottery winners receiving public assistance last month, Brancato said, "whether somebody is or isn't is not the role of the lottery."
"We pay the winner their prize and we don't have any authority to do anything beyond that," she said. "If the legislation is enacted we will certainly comply with the legislation which will presumably prevent situations like this from occurring in the future."