Welfare fraud case dropped

Charge against former prosecutor, local attorney dismissed; Employee’s hearing in August

The state has dismissed a charge of welfare fraud filed against a Seymour attorney in July 2016.

At the time of his arrest, Stephen Shoemaker Pierson said the justice had misfired, and he expected everything to be over quickly.

“But it took longer that I thought,” Pierson said Monday.

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Pierson, who was the Jackson County prosecutor from 2003 to 2007, was arrested on the Level 6 felony charge in July 2016, and an employee in his law office, Teresa L. Cantu, was arrested on Level 6 felony charges of welfare fraud and perjury at the same time.

Pierson’s jury trial had been set for 9 a.m. May 23 but was canceled after the charge was dismissed Friday by Special Judge Stephen Heimann.

The state’s motion to dismiss the charge against Pierson was signed by special prosecuting attorney James F. Gallagher, who wrote in the motion that further prosecution of the case was not warranted because of a disability Pierson was diagnosed with in February of 2015.

A change of plea hearing for Cantu has been set for 9:30 a.m. Aug. 10 in Jackson Circuit Court.

According to the probable cause affidavit signed by Scott Davis, the investigation that led to the arrests of Cantu and Pierson began Feb. 17, 2016.

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 had 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.

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.

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

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

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.