Woman, boss face welfare fraud charges

A woman accused of stealing more than $6,500 in public assistance has been arrested along with her boss, who is a Seymour attorney and former Jackson County prosecutor.

Teresa L. Cantu, 49, of Seymour faces Level 6 felony charges of welfare fraud and perjury while her 68-year-old boss, Stephen S. Pierson, faces a Level 6 felony charge of welfare fraud in connection with the investigation that led to Cantu’s arrest.

Cantu said Tuesday that the case against her contains a lot of misinformation.

“… and it needs to be straightened out,” she said. Pierson, who was Jackson County prosecutor from 2003 to 2007, was out of the office Tuesday and not available for comment.

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According to the probable cause affidavit signed by Scott Davis, the investigation that led to the arrest of Cantu began Feb. 17. That’s when Davis, an investigator with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Compliance Division, said he received information Cantu had failed to report all of the income she had been receiving while working for Pierson to the Jackson County Division of Family Resources.

Cantu had received food stamps and Medicaid from January 2015 to March 2016 while living in Seymour, according to court records.

Davis reported Cantu also has sold two vehicles to auto dealerships for a total of $18,500 and failed to report those resources when she applied for public assistance on at least three occasions.

During the investigation, witnesses who had worked with Cantu at the law firm or were still working with her told Davis that Pierson had been paying her at least $500 a week in cash, Davis reported.

Witnesses also said Cantu had been given cash to pay for vacations, family trips, gymnastics lessons and for her to get her hair and nails done, Davis said.

He also reported one witness told him Pierson had paid Cantu cash so it would not affect her government assistance.

As part of the investigation, Davis said he was told Cantu received $200 a week in child support from her ex-husband and that income was not reported when she applied for public assistance.

Overall, the investigation showed Cantu received $6,526.47 in public assistance.

The two surrendered to police Monday afternoon at the Jackson County Jail in Brownstown. Pierson was booked in at 4:04 p.m. and released a minute later after posting a $1,505 bond.

Cantu was booked into the jail at 5:20 p.m. Monday and released at 5:33 p.m. after posting a $1,505 bond. Initial hearings in Jackson Circuit Court have not been set.

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Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.