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Missing Lewis County girl’s mom admits to welfare fraud

By the Associated Press

ELKINS, W.Va. — A woman whose 3-year-old daughter has been missing for more than three months pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal charge of welfare fraud.

Lena Lunsford, 29, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Kaull in Elkins and pleaded guilty to selling $114 worth of credit on her food stamp card for $50 cash. She had been indicted on multiple counts in October, accused of swapping for cash five times in two months.

Lunsford will be sentenced at a later date and could get as much as five years in prison and a $250,000 fine under the plea bargain.

Lunsford’s 3-year-old daughter Aliayah vanished from the family’s Lewis County home on Sept 24. Investigators are treating the disappearance as a crime but have made no arrests and named no suspects.

Weeks after Aliayah vanished, Lunsford was indicted in the fraud case but allowed to remain free while awaiting trial.

Last month, Kaull ordered Lunsford to live apart from her husband, Ralph, after he admitted in court that he had bought and used synthetic drugs called bath salts. Kaull also ordered Lena Lunsford to undergo drug counseling.

The Lunsfords were caught with the drugs outside a Clarksburg paraphernalia shop. But Ralph Lunsford testified the drugs were his, that he believed they were legal to buy, and that his wife didn’t know he had them until the trooper approached the car.

Still, Kaull ruled that Lena Lunsford had violated a condition of her release by failing to report the Nov. 1 interaction with the trooper.

The Lunsfords have repeatedly refused to speak to the media about Aliayah’s disappearance and have issued only one written statement through an attorney on Nov. 9.

In it, Lena Lunsford said she was cooperating with investigators and still believed her daughter was alive.

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Aliayah Lunsford Allegedly Last Seen

  • 2340 days, 11 hours, 57 minutes ago

About Aliayah Lunsford

Age 3, Aliayah Lunsford's mother claims that she last saw her daughter at home on September 24, 2011 around 6:30 a.m.

Aliayah has brown eyes and hair, is around 3 foot tall and weighs about 30lbs.

Last seen wearing purple Dora the Explorer pajama bottoms, pink princess sweatshirt and no shoes, Aliayah's ears are pierced and she is missing four (4) front teeth.

If you have any information on her whereabouts, call the Lewis County Sheriff's Department at 304-269-8245.

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