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Commonwealth v. St. Rose

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

August 14, 2019

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
KATRICE K. ST. ROSE Appellant

          Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence Entered July 24, 2018 In the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-21-CR-0003747-2016

          BEFORE: BOWES, J., McLAUGHLIN, J., and STRASSBURGER [*] , J.

          OPINION

          McLAUGHLIN, J.

         Katrice K. St. Rose appeals from the judgment of sentence following her jury trial conviction for obtaining public welfare funds by misrepresentation ("welfare fraud"), 62 P.S. § 481(a). St. Rose argues the trial court erred in instructing the jury as to the elements of the crime. We affirm.

         The trial court set forth the following factual history:

On December 17, 2012, [St. Rose] had a face-to-face appointment with a county benefits eligibility specialist in order to apply for childcare assistance. At that time, she received information on her rights and responsibilities. The information included notification concerning her duty to report changes in her circumstances. The specialist emphasized that this duty obligated [St. Rose] to report, among other things, any changes in her hours of employment or employment status. On January 2, 2013, [St. Rose's] childcare assistance was terminated because her status changed to unemployed.
In September of 2013, [St. Rose] began working at MedStaffers as a Home Health Aide ["HHA"]. Her new employment allowed her to reapply for childcare assistance, which she did via a phone interview with the benefits eligibility specialist. Again, [St. Rose] was notified of her duty to report any changes in her employment. As part of the yearly benefits renewal process, the eligibility specialist contacted [St. Rose] to update her benefits application on January 2, 2014. During that recertification call, the specialist reviewed the questions on the application. She specifically asked [St. Rose] if the employment information was correct. [St. Rose] confirmed that she was still working at MedStaffers as an HHA. She also confirmed the daycare provider that she was using for her childcare. As a result of the information, the specialist found that [St. Rose] still qualified for childcare assistance.
[St. Rose] continued to receive the childcare assistance for her MedStaffers job until she filed to reopen her cash benefits through the County Assistance Office around June of 2014. At that time, the eligibility specialist realized that [St. Rose] was no longer working for her reported employer. When the specialist looked into [St. Rose's] employment records at MedStaffers, she learned that [St. Rose] had been terminated from her position with the company on October 25, 2013, months prior to the 2014 recertification.
At trial, the eligibility specialist testified about the benefits application process and her experiences with [St. Rose's] case. The human resources director from MedStaffers also testified and confirmed that [St. Rose] had been terminated from her employment on October 25, 2013. Additionally, the operator of the daycare that cared for [St. Rose's] children testified that [St. Rose] continued to use the daycare after October 25, 2013. He provided the daycare's invoices for [St. Rose's] three children from October 2013 through June 2014. He also testified that he had an independent recollection of [St. Rose's] children being at the daycare during that time.

         Trial Court Opinion, filed Nov. 13, 2018, at 1-3 (footnotes and citations to record omitted).

         St. Rose requested the following instruction as to the elements of welfare fraud:

The defendant has been charged with welfare fraud. To find the defendant guilty of this offense, you must find that the following elements have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt:
First, that the defendant made a false statement or misrepresentation [or withheld information][1],
Second, that the information provided [or withheld] was material to that agency's determination in approving or disapproving a ...

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