A North Platte woman accused of fraudulently obtaining food stamps was in Lincoln County Court Thursday.Melanie M. Burke is charged with collecting up to $35,836 in food stamps over several years.
According to the claim by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Burke did not tell authorities that her husband was living with her and did not report his worker’s compensation disability income.
On the other hand, Burke claims there is not enough evidence to press the charges.
When court was convened Thursday to review the evidence, Deputy Lincoln County Attorney Jennifer Wellan called HHS fraud investigator Dan Rinaldi to the stand.
Rinaldi said he had evidence that Burke’s husband, who is supposed to be living separately from Burke, has instead lived in their home at 1102 E. Second more than 51 percent of the time, so they cannot properly be classified as living separately.
Rinaldi told the court that Burke’s husband used the Second St. address on his driver’s license, on his vehicle registrations and he received workman’s comp payments at her address. He said Burke’s husband is also listed at her address on police reports.
Rinaldi said HHS has had complaints that Mr. Burke lived there since 1999, but his investigation only covers 2002-13. Rinaldi said at least one complaint came from an HHS employee.
Brian Dostil, Special Agent with the Office of the Inspector General, testified that he agreed with Rinaldi’s information and did not have anything to add, except that the total amount of the fraud was less – $26,966. Dostil did not specify how he got that total.
In Burke's defense, attorney Blaine Gillett said the forms that Rinaldi referred to do not prove that Mr. Burke actually lived in the house. Gillett said if Mr. Burke was using that address to file forms and make applications, it was not his wife’s fault. He asked Rinaldi if he had other evidence, and Rinaldi referred only to the forms he had already discussed.
Gillett then produced copies of some food stamp applications that Burke filed, which report her husband’s income at the time of the applications and state her husband was living in the home.
Piccolo took the evidence under consideration and said he would decide within a week whether or not to send the case to district court.