Moffat County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested a Craig day care operator April 2 on suspicion of defrauding Moffat County Social Services for at least $3,264 in child day care subsidies.
Andrea Luker, 39, co-owner and operator of Bear Valley Child Learning Center, was arrested on suspicion of six counts of forgery, a Class 5 felony, and one count of theft between $1,000 and $20,000.
She was released on a personal recognizance bond the same day as her arrest.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in Moffat County Court by Joseph DeAngelo, an investigator for the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office, she falsely reported dates she cared for clients' children, which inflated the amount she was owed.
Deputy District Attorney Patrick Welsh said he plans to file formal charges against her next week.
Andrea is married to Alvin Luker, a corporal with the Craig Police Department who shares ownership of Bear Valley. Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Snow said there are no plans to file charges against Alvin.
DeAngelo's conclusions in the affidavit are based on comparing dates Andrea submitted for payment with days the mothers either said they were out of town or caring for their own children, or days when Andrea's business was closed.
For example, Social Services first started a formal inquiry into Andrea's billing practices when she and another provider billed the agency for care provided to the same girl on the same days in November, the affidavit states.
It goes on to read that the girl's mother told Social Services officials that Andrea had not watched her daughter those days because her business was closed, partly so that Andrea could participate in a local craft fair.
Through Social Services' initial inquiry, Self-Sufficiency Manager Laura Willems interviewed Andrea and Alvin.
The affidavit states Alvin told Social Services officials that Andrea was closed Nov. 6 and 7, but that Andrea hires alternative day care providers to watch people's children and pays them out of Social Services' reimbursements.
Alvin could not provide a record of who his wife hired for those days and did not remember who it could have been, according to the affidavit.
In later interviews with DeAngelo, Bear Valley clients disputed the Lukers' claims that Andrea hired other day care providers for them, according to the affidavit.
DeAngelo also states in the affidavit that a Bear Valley client said Andrea advised her that Alvin recommended she leave the District Attorney's Office if the investigator "was prying too far."
Alvin called DeAngelo on Feb. 19, the affidavit reads, and said he thought DeAngelo was "over-investigating" the case to eliminate perceptions that he was getting preferential treatment for being a police officer.
Alvin then said Social Services had a vendetta against him and his wife, and that was why the investigation began, according to the affidavit.
A Bear Valley client also wrote a letter in support of the Lukers, stating she thought Social Services had a vendetta against her, and the investigation into the Lukers could be related to her issues with the agency, the affidavit states.
DeAngelo wrote in the affidavit that he researched Bear Valley's practice from July to December 2008, but he thinks there likely are more instances of fraud. However, he supports the current charges because he does not think the total dollar amount would exceed $20,000 for the six-month period cited in the case.
DeAngelo has referred additional auditing to Social Services.
Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.