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Sheriff’s wife accused of welfare theft

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BILLINGS (AP) -- A sheriff's wife previously employed by the state Office of Public Assistance is accused of creating phony welfare cases in a four-year scheme to obtain more than $100,000.

Lynn Rosenberg, wife of Wheatland County Sheriff Jim Rosenberg, was charged Tuesday. She worked in the Office of Public Assistance for about 15 years, ending last September.

Authorities allege Rosenberg created phony clients by using names of former aid recipients no longer living in the area, then mailed welfare payments to either the Harlowton office where she worked alone, or to a Ryegate post office box held in her name.

In a 14-count felony complaint, Rosenberg is charged with theft, identity theft, forgery and unauthorized transfer of food stamps. A records-tampering charge also was filed.

Arraignment is scheduled for April 17 in Harlowton. Rosenberg was not taken into custody.

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She did not immediately return a call seeking comment Sunday. Earlier, Jim Rosenberg declined to comment, other than saying his office did not participate in the investigation.

Lynn Rosenberg began working in 1991 as an eligibility examiner at the Office of Public Assistance in Harlowton, where she reviewed applications for benefits, said Gail Shirley, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Officials in the agency, which oversees the Harlowton office, became suspicious in August when Rosenberg approved a payment in the name of a woman whose husband earned more than $80,000 a year and had not lived in Montana for 12 years.

Investigators later determined that Rosenberg assumed the woman's identity to collect aid payments between 2003 and 2006. They found eight similar cases in which Rosenberg was suspected of using electronic benefits cards used to withdraw $87,000 in cash from automated teller machines between late 2002 and mid-2006, and to make more than $13,000 in food-stamp purchases.

Of the nine related case files, eight were missing when a supervisor visited Rosenberg's Harlowton office, according to court documents.

Shirley cited confidentiality laws in declining to discuss circumstances surrounding Rosenberg's departure from the aid office in September.

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