Whitefish Bay couple charged with health care, food benefits fraud
By Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel
Dec. 22, 2015
A Whitefish Bay couple has been charged with fraudulently collecting nearly $115,000 in state health care and food benefits from 2007 to 2014, when one of them was earning about $160,000 a year.
Authorities say Mary Carini-Gallagher, 51, and Todd Schaller, 52, repeatedly misled the state Department of Health Services about their joint finances and living arrangement.
State officials didn't spot the alleged fraud, even after the couple and their home were featured in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "At Home With" feature story in 2012. That didn't happen until someone sent the Office of Inspector General an anonymous letter in July 2014.
Carini-Gallagher faces counts of public assistance fraud, collecting benefits and failing to disclose events affecting eligibility. Each is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Schaller faces two counts of conspiracy to commit public assistance fraud and a single count of getting less than $2,000 in public assistance benefits by fraud. The first two carry the five-year maximum sentence, and the third count has a maximum prison term of 18 months.
Both were charged Friday and made their first court appearances Tuesday. Court Commissioner David Sweet released both on $1,500 signature bonds and set preliminary hearings for Jan. 22.
According to the criminal complaint:
Investigators raided the couple's home in the 5900 block of Santa Monica Blvd. in March. At that time, investigators found several records indicating the couple had resided together since 2007. Each had children from previous marriages, and one child together.
Carini-Gallagher had initially qualified for and received public assistance. But when she moved in with Schaller, who was an executive at a concrete company, she failed to inform the DHS about her change in circumstances, time after time, even after the couple bought the house in Whitefish Bay in 2009.
Carini-Gallagher also claimed to DHS that one of her daughters was still living with her when the daughter was, in fact, living and studying in Thailand.
In January 2013, Schaller applied for food stamps for himself, listing his two older children as part of his household, though they resided with their mother, while omitting that he lived with Carini-Gallagher, her children, and the couple's own daughter. Four days before he applied, Schaller had gotten a $53,369 severance check from VCNA Prairie Material, a major supplier of mixed concrete in the area.
While detectives were in her home serving the search warrant in March, Carini-Gallagher first said she had just skimmed the various public benefit forms and didn't realize she was supposed to report her change in household. But she later admitted intentionally misleading the state about her true situation to continue getting the extra money.
Carini-Gallagher "stated that being a mother was what she was born to do and that she falsified the information to DHS so she could stay at home with her children."
The 2009 purchase price on the 2,300-square-foot, four-bedroom home: $380,000. The current value is estimated at well over $400,000.
I’m of two minds regarding this situation.
One, in the end, the woman finally became honest and admitted she wanted to stay home and raise her children herself and she didn’t have the income to support that…Of course the man she was living with had the income; but, he simply decided it was cheaper to not marry her and assume responsibility for her and the children from a previous relationship.
So she constructed a middle-class life-style, which was basically a lie, in order to become the stay-at-home mom she clearly wanted to be. In the process, she defrauded the state and it’s taxpayers for thousands claiming benefits to feed, cloth and provide health care for herself and her children.
My second thought while being sympathetic to her cause, is that she should be held accountable for her actions as women like this enable idiots like her live-in boyfriend to get away with his ‘spit in the face’ to our society’s norms and values.
He presented a fascade to his neighbors and portrayed himself as one of them. For all intents and purposes he was a loving faux husband and father providing his family with a home and feeding and clothing them just like all his neighbors were doing for their families, blended or otherwise. Meanwhile he was doing this on the backs of his neighbors since it was his neighbors who were feeding and providing free health care for his faux family…
So punishment must be meted out to both, arrangements must br made to pay back the monies they owed. I just hope the main punishment doesn’t fall on the mother here and it is properly apportioned between this pair.