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Sat, March 23

Chino Valley woman accused of fraudulently obtaining low-income housing, food stamps



PRESCOTT - A woman who police said lied on a food-stamp application and defrauded low-income apartment management to secure housing on Thursday appeared in court to talk about the possibility of accepting a plea deal.

Dawn Michelle Ran-kin, 46, was indicted on 13 counts, including nine counts of forgery, two counts of fraudulent schemes and artifices, and one count each of theft and unlawful use of food stamps.

Rankin failed to disclose prior drug convictions and three years in prison when she applied with the state Department of Economic Security for food stamps, according to a police probable cause statement, and then told officers she believed her convictions in California had been "deferred." But she had signed court documents admitting to the prior offenses, the statement said. Rankin collected about $3,600 in benefits illegally, according to the statement.

Police said she also filled out an application for the Antelope Valley Apartments in Chino Valley which, through a federal program, charges reduced rent based on income, and again failed to admit to the prior felonies when asked.

On Thursday, Deputy County Attorney Dana Owens said a plea agreement had been offered, but Rankin had not accepted it.

"In essence, the state is asking her to plead to the major offenses" with which she's been charged, but without having to admit to prior felonies, which would make for much longer sentences, Owens said, pointing out that Rankin could be charged with accepting a plea in California fraudulently be-cause "she avowed she had one prior felony -she actually had three."

Superior Court Judge Tina Ainley said that, while there would be no allegation of prior felonies, the plea was prison-mandatory. It stipulates at least eight years imprisonment, but Ainley said she could impose up to 32 years.

If convicted by a jury, Rankin could face almost 98 years behind bars if she got the maximum sentence, Ainley said.

Rankin's attorney, Bruce Griffen, called it "a paper case" - one that "demonstrates what priors can do."

He said Rankin, who is out on a court order, was trying to provide for a child when she lied about her background to the DES and the apartment complex, because "both do not allow prior felonies."

Rankin, he said, "is absolutely emotionally overwhelmed" at the prospect of prison because she had both a 7-year-old child and an adult son with emotional problems.

Ainley set a trial date in October.


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