DETROIT — A Detroit-area woman who collected welfare benefits despite winning a big lottery prize pleaded no contest to fraud Thursday and likely will be sentenced to probation.
Lawyers for Amanda Clayton were disappointed that state prosecutors would not settle the case without a felony charge.
“Ambitions often get in the way of good justice,” Todd Flood told The Associated Press outside court.
There is no dispute that Clayton, 24, of Lincoln Park collected about $5,500 in food aid and medical benefits after winning a $735,000 lottery prize, before taxes, last year. After Clayton was confronted by TV station WDIV, the state charged her with fraud and said she should have informed the Department of Human Services about her windfall.
Clayton said little in court and later declined to comment. A no contest plea is treated like a guilty plea for the purpose of setting a sentence.
Lawyers told Wayne County Circuit Judge Margie Braxton that they agreed probation is appropriate when Clayton returns to court on July 24.
Flood said there were “viable defenses” to the charges, but Clayton “wanted closure.” The Michigan attorney general’s office, which handled the case, considered it to be an important one.
“We believe lottery jackpot winners shouldn’t be collecting welfare in violation of state law,” spokeswoman Joy Yearout said.
Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law in April that requires lottery officials to inform the Department of Human Services about newly minted winners.
In 2011, Leroy Fick of Bay County was getting food aid despite winning an $850,000 prize a year earlier. He told officials about his wealth but was allowed to temporarily keep his card because one-time windfalls at that time were not counted as regular income.