On Tuesday, Dec. 3, a Highland County Grand Jury met and handed down six felony indictments, the culmination of a three-month investigation into food stamp fraud.

In September, the Department of Job and Family Services contracted with the sheriff's office for a full-time investigator, whose responsibilities include investigating food stamp, Medicaid and financial assistance fraud as well as child and elderly abuse.

"We haven't had a full-time investigator at JFS for more than three years," JFS executive director Debbie Robbins said. "These indictments represent more than $30,000 in taxpayer dollars stolen by these six people over the last couple years. We have several other investigations ongoing and anticipate more indictments to come."

Indicted on Dec. 3 were Larry F. Cook, 40, and Heather D. Cook, 37, both of Hillsboro, who were charged with theft by deception, a fourth-degree felony. Kevin D. Mosley, 45, Tonia S. Mosley, 41, Tamara L. Hester, 42 and John B. Hester, 39 were each charged with theft by deception, a fifth-degree felony.

The indictments were for fraudulently obtaining food stamp assistance or for drawing food stamps at the same time in two different states. Those indicted not  only face criminal charges but will be held responsible for paying back all dollars received fraudulently.

"These cases are just the tip of the iceberg, and efforts will be increased over the coming months to ensure that anyone stealing any federal assistance dollars will be held accountable," Sheriff Richard Warner said.

Updates in technology over the last couple of years make it easier to track down and identify individuals who file fraudulent applications, file in multiple states or use stolen identities to obtain financial assistance. Statewide and nationwide databases automatically trigger red flags on individuals and families whose profiles reflect fraudulent activity.

"We would strongly suggest that anyone with questions or concerns about the appropriateness of their application contact their case manager for a review," Robbins said. "With a full-time investigator now, we will be aggressively scrutinizing and checking out all information supplied by applicants for financial aid."

For more information, contact Sheriff Warner at (937) 393-1421.