State: Woman got food stamps while running $1M business

January 9, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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CRANBERRY TWP — A township woman is facing criminal charges for allegedly receiving $195,223 in public assistance while operating a business that was paid $1.24 million from the state Department of Human Services.

Kimberly Edwards-Coleman, 35, was charged in Allegheny County Court with three felony fraud charges, including fraudulently obtaining food-stamps. The charges were filed Dec. 28 by the state Office of the Inspector General.

Beginning in 2014, Coleman owned and operated a company known as Lioness Community Care that aimed to provide community-based residential care to people with developmental and emotional disabilities.

From June 2014 to Nov. 30, 2017, the state’s Department of Human Services paid Edwards-Coleman and her husband $1.24 million through nine bank accounts in their names. Investigators found that Edwards-Coleman and her husband entered into an 11-year-lease for a home in Cranberry Township for $30,000 and a monthly sum of $8,907.

Through an investigation, officials with the inspector general claim that the Colemans omitted their source of income when she applied for benefits with the Allegheny County Assistance Office. The form, according to the criminal complaint written by an official with the inspector general, contained false information about the Colemans’ employment, bank account and other financial information contingent on their eligibility to receive government benefits. The couple also put a fake address on their form, according to the report, listing their address in Pittsburgh, when in fact they were living on Windwood Heights Drive in Cranberry.

She also allegedly submitted falsified pay stubs to make it look as if her husband worked at a McKees Rocks pizzeria to continue receiving benefits, according to the report. But when investigators interviewed the owner of the pizzeria, he said that the husband had never worked there. Coleman, according to the report, also faked her own pay stubs to the state’s Human Services Department, claiming to have worked for a business known as Citizens Community Care. But there is no such company, according to the report’s investigation, and investigators found that the address of the fake business is a location where Lioness Community Care once operated a residential facility.

Court documents state Coleman received about $195,223 in fraudulent benefits between 2014 and 2018.

According to Cranberry Police Sgt. Chuck Mascalino, officers conducted an investigation into an unrelated case in 2017 stemming from information from Pittsburgh police. During that investigation, they found discrepancies with Edwards-Coleman’s story, and gave that information to Pittsburgh police and the Inspector General’s Office.

According to court documents, Edwards-Coleman is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 12 at the Allegheny Courthouse in Pittsburgh. Each charge carries a maximum seven-year prison sentence.

The Associated Press contributed to the report.

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