A Burnsville woman already charged with swindling her former employer out of more than $183,000 has now been charged with illegally obtaining more than $40,000 in county child care benefits.
Laura Michelle Schwartz, 36, is facing three felony counts of wrongfully obtaining child care payments, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
According to the criminal complaint, a county employee asked officials to investigate Schwartz for child-care assistance fraud in early June 2009. Schwartz had been receiving child-care benefits through Dakota County since 2004.
Welfare fraud investigators learned from an anonymous tipster that the father of Schwartz’s youngest child had been living in her home for about three years. The caller also told authorities that Schwartz worked as an accountant, earned “huge” paychecks and bonuses and that she “fixed” the paperwork that she submitted to her caseworker so she could continue to receive benefits.
Authorities interviewed the father of Schwartz’s youngest child, who admitted living with her from time to time before moving out for good in August 2009. He told authorities that he knew Schwartz was receiving child care benefits to which she was not entitled, and said she was “playing a game.”
The man told authorities that although he had never seen one of Schwartz’s paychecks, she often bragged about “earning six figures,” according to the complaint.
Authorities subpoenaed Schwartz’s bank accounts and learned that she had earned “significant” income that she hadn’t reported when completing recertification applications for benefits through Dakota County, the complaint charges.
For 2009, Schwartz’s semi-monthly child care benefits were based on her reported annual income of $54,692. A review of her bank accounts showed that she had made unreported bank deposits of an additional $57,413 that year.
For 2010, Schwartz reported earning $50,130, but authorities found that she had earned an unreported $30,115.
Authorities determined that Schwartz had received $41,178 in benefits to which she was not entitled.
A Dakota County sheriff’s deputy interviewed Schwartz in August 2010. During that interview, Schwartz admitted that she worked as an accountant and that she had a private business, from which she had earned $200 from a client that hadn’t been reported to the county, according to the complaint.
Schwartz also told the deputy that she hadn’t reported the money in her accounts at Anchor Bank. When the deputy asked her if she had reported all her income, she replied, “Define income,” according to the complaint.
When the deputy began to ask more specific questions, Schwartz refused to answer, saying, “I’m in between a rock and a hard place,” then said she wanted to speak to an attorney and asked the deputy to leave, the complaint says.
Schwartz is scheduled to make a first appearance on the latest charges Aug. 6 in Dakota County District Court in Hastings.
Schwartz was charged last month with 10 felony counts of theft by swindle. Authorities say she worked as a clerk for an Eagan-based freight brokerage business and used her access to company computers to divert $183,010 of the firm’s money to her own bank accounts.
An omnibus hearing in that case is scheduled Oct. 2 in Dakota County District Court in Hastings.
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