Welfare fraud case challenged in wake of Lake County dismissal

2013-06-27T18:00:00Z 2013-06-28T10:50:05Z Welfare fraud case challenged in wake of Lake County dismissalBob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | The former owner of a troubled bar in Hammond is arguing she cannot be tried for felony welfare fraud in Porter County because charges based on the same accusations were dismissed last month in Lake County.

Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper scheduled a July 18 hearing on Jennifer Shannon's motion for the court to dismiss the felony count.

Her trial is scheduled to begin in the same courtroom July 22.

Shannon, 38, of Chesterton, said she was into the second day of her trial in Lake County on May 29 when prosecutors handed her attorneys notice the case was being dismissed because they were "unable to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt." Lake County also said the case was being dismissed so Porter County could proceed with its case.

The accusations are the same with each case and involve identical evidence, according to the motion to dismiss. 

An investigator with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration said that between December 2008 and October 2009, Shannon defrauded the state of $13,838.91 in the form of food stamps and Medicaid benefits she and her five children received.

Investigators allege that during that time, Shannon intentionally withheld and concealed information regarding her ownership interest in Sammy's Big Bang, a fireworks outlet, and Jen's Apartment, a bar, both in Hammond. Investigators allege that while Shannon claimed to have no income, she actually made $4,700 a month, pushing her beyond eligibility for state assistance.

Documents also state that investigators found Shannon also conducted "frequent transactions" with local casinos, which in all exceeded $66,000, during the time she was receiving public assistance. Investigators also allege she spent $23,000 on casino chips in a single day, according to documents obtained from the management of Majestic Star Casino in Gary.

Shannon cites Constitutional protection against double jeopardy, which says no person shall be tried twice for the same offense.

"This is more akin to an acquittal than a mistrial situation," according to Shannon's motion.

Formerly known as The Diamond Tap, Jen's Apartment was raided and closed in March 2010 for state alcohol violations.

During its time in operation, the bar in Hammond's Robertsdale neighborhood raised the eyebrows of neighbors and city officials with events like "Cinco de Porno," which invited nude dancers to entertain clientèle.

In April 2010, the building burned to the ground on the day a Lake Superior judge set as a deadline for Shannon and her partners to vacate the building.

 

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