Valpariso, Ind. woman accused of stealing $250,000 of her son’s military life insurance meant for her granddaughter faces a new charge.
Janie Lee Espinoza, a 56-year-old pastor from Portage, has been charged with an additional count of welfare fraud, Porter County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Brian Gensel said Thursday. Espinoza already faces eight felony counts of theft, and has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors allege that after Espinoza’s son, Army Spc. Roy Buckley, died in a “non-hostile” vehicle accident in Iraq in 2003, Espinoza became guardian of his life insurance policy. The money was to go to Buckley’s then-6-year-old daughter when she turned 18, authorities said.
But police say Espinoza spent all the money, plus $406 in interest, on cars, jewelry, a time share property in Florida, church pews and a baby grand piano.
The new welfare fraud charge stems from allegations that Espinoza used $2,044 worth of food stamps at the same time she was spending the insurance money. Espinoza was required to tell the Porter County Division of Family Resources if she had access to more than $3,000, Gensel said.
The Associated Press left a message Friday seeking comment from Espinoza’s attorney, Garry Weiss of Merrillville. Weiss has previously said that he does not dispute that the money was meant for Espinoza’s granddaughter, but that the case is a civil, not criminal matter.
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