LEWISTON — A Turner woman accused of welfare fraud denied the charges Wednesday in 8th District Court.

Chereese Ford, 34, of 16 Dow Farm Road, pleaded not guilty to the charges against her and said she would seek a court-appointed attorney.

Ford was indicted by an Androscoggin County grand jury in April on a charge of aggravated forgery, a Class B crime that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

According to the indictment, Ford intended to defraud or deceive the government on May 16, 2016, by falsely making a written statement filed with a Department of Health and Human Services office that bore the signed name of someone other than Ford.

From May 1, 2014, until Aug. 31, 2015, in Androscoggin and Oxford counties, Ford stole from DHHS and the U.S. government more than $1,000, but less than $10,000 worth of food stamps, or benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program with the intention of depriving those programs of that money by leading them to believe her two minor children were living with her, something she knew to be false, according to the indictment charging her with theft by deception.

The charge is a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

Ford also was charged with two counts of unsworn falsification, Class D misdemeanors, each punishable by up to 364 days in jail.

For those charges, the indictment says Ford left out information in applications for benefits with DHHS on Dec. 22, 2014, and April 26, 2015, that created the impression that her two minor children were living with her.

Chereese Ford appears in 8th District Court in Lewiston on Wednesday. 

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