Posted: 9:08 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, 2013

Woman accused of cheating welfare system while making $45K a year

Rosa Valdes
Rosa Valdes

ORLANDO, Fla. —

An Orlando woman was arrested after investigators said, for years, she scammed taxpayers out of tens of thousands of dollars in food stamps and cash assistance, while she was making about $45,000 a year.

According to a Florida Department of Children and Families spokesperson, Rosa Valdes was likely submitting fake documents for years.

Valdes, 42, is alleged to have stolen more than $41,000 in food stamps, cash assistance and Medicaid.

When Channel 9's Renee Stoll went to Valdes' apartment complex Monday, she went into her apartment without commenting.

Investigators said Valdes cheated the system for four years while she worked a full-time, management-level job at a local Staples store.

"She was just routinely and repeatedly submitting reports to us that she essentially may have created," said Carrie Hoeppner with DCF.

Records show Valdes reported she was only making between $150 and $325 a week, when she was actually making anywhere between $41,000 and almost $48,000 a year.

"She's clearly over-income and would not have been eligible for public assistance, which I think not only frustrates our organization, but the general public as well, who really want to help people who truly need it," said Hoeppner.

But officials said she was able to get away with it for several years.

"A way that a lot of the systems operate is that they really ping off of information," said Hoeppner. "But [when] an individual's providing fraudulent information to multiple systems, sometimes it's hard to make that connection."

Officials said Valdes will be required to pay back the entire amount, which is just over $41,000.  They said she could also be facing prison time if convicted, and is no longer able to receive government assistance.

DCF officials said they have rolled out new ways to catch fraud over the last year and they expect to see a lot more of arrests.

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