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BETTY McCULLUM v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

MAY 07, 1986

BETTY McCULLUM
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE PATTERSON, C.J.; DAN M. LEE AND ROBERTSON, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

On March 14, 1983, Betty McCullum filed a false affidavit with the Hinds County Food Stamp Office that she had never received her food stamp authorization card and pursuant thereto she obtained an illegal food stamp payment of $569.00. On September 7, 1983, McCullum was formally charged in an indictment returned by the Hinds County Grand Jury with the crime of welfare fraud. Miss. Code Ann. 97-19-71 (Supp.1985). The indictment further charged that McCullum was a recidivist within the meaning of Miss. Code Ann. 99-19-81 (Supp.1985). McCullum entered a plea of not guilty to all charges.

 On March 13, 1984, this case was called for trial in Circuit Court sitting in Jackson, Mississippi. That afternoon, after hearing all of the evidence and receiving the instructions of the court, the jury found McCullum guilty on the principal charge of welfare fraud.

 Promptly thereafter, the Circuit Court conducted a non-jury hearing on the recidivism issue. The evidence established that McCullum had been convicted of two separate felonies, both forgeries, arising out of incidents occurring on July 6 and 7, 1981. Under the combined authority of Miss. Code Ann. 97-19-71 (6)(a) and 99-19-81 (Supp.1985), the Circuit Court sentenced McCullum to serve a term of three (3) years without eligibility for Probation or parole and assessed a fine of Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00).

 From this conviction and sentence, McCullum appeals. We affirm.

 II.

 The evidence adduced at trial may be summarized as follows:

 Margaret McGowan, an employee with the Hinds County Welfare Department, testified first and described the procedure for issuance of food stamps to individuals entitled to receive them in March of 1983. Each recipient was issued a green identification card (green card) and mailed, at some

 time during the month, an authorization to participate card (ATP Card). Food stamp regulations allowed other individuals designated as representatives to pick up food stamps for the recipient. The representative's names were listed on the back of the green card.

 Eddie Brown, a friend of McCullum's, testified that McCullum gave him her ATP card and green card on March 9, 1983, in order to purchase her allotment of food stamps. Brown accompanied McCullum and several other individuals to the Jackson Mall Food Stamp Office to make the purchase. According to Brown, McCullum asked that he sign the card as Jack Love, her father and a designated representative. McCullum promised Brown twenty dollars ($20.00) for his services. Brown testified that he gave McCullum the food stamps before he left the food stamp office.

 Louise Glasscock, coordinator of food stamps with the Hinds County Welfare Department, testified that McCullum contacted her and sought a duplicate ATP card, reporting that her original one was either lost or stolen. Regulations provided that, if a recipient did not receive an ATP card within a reasonable time after it was mailed, the recipient could obtain a replacement. The recipient was required to fill out a 574 Form styled "Affidavit Regarding ATP Card Never Received, Lost or Stolen" . McCullum signed Form 574 on March 14, 1983, and delivered it to the Welfare Department.

 McCullum's replacement ATP card was prepared March 15, 1983. Henry Seale, Chief Investigator for fraud at the Welfare Department, witnessed McCullum sign the replacement ATP card and exchange it for her allotment of $569.00 worth of food stamps at the main office on Woodrow Wilson Boulevard in Jackson. After the purchase of the food stamps, McCullum was arrested by a uniformed officer.

 McCullum testified in her own behalf. She denied asking Eddie Brown to use her green card and ATP card to purchase food stamps. She stated that she kept her green card in her wallet and that she could not find her wallet after March 3, 1983, when Eddie Brown and several others has assisted her in moving to another residence. McCullum stated that she telephone Loraine Funchess, an eligibility worker with the Welfare Department, and reported that her green card was missing. However, Funchess contradicted this testimony.

 In addition, McCullum said on March 9, 1983, when her father, Jack Love, and neighbor, Clara McVay, received their ATP cards, her card did not arrive. McCullum stated that she then ...


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