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Mom pleads guilty

Lunsford could face maximum of 5 years in prison

January 11, 2012
By John Clise - Staff Writer , The Inter-Mountain

The mother of a missing Weston girl had another day in federal court Tuesday as U.S. Magistrate John S. Kaull accepted a plea agreement on one count of a six-count indictment regarding federal welfare charges.

Lena Lunsford, 29, entered into a plea agreement with the federal government by pleading guilty to count six of the indictment during a hearing in U.S District Court in Elkins. Count six alleges that on Oct. 15, Lunsford knowingly allowed her Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program card to be used by a confidential informant in the amount of $114.82 in exchange for $50 cash.

Christopher Farrell, a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, testified that the confidential informant obtained the SNAP card from Lunsford in the parking lot of the Weston Wal-Mart. He testified the confidential informant obtained Lunsford's personal identification number prior to getting the card Oct. 15.

Article Video

Lena Lunsford being swarmed by protesters after her court hearing in Elkins

Farrell said the tip regarding the card's fraudulent use came during the investigation into the disappearance of Lunsford's 3-year-old daughter, Aliayah, who went missing from the family's home in Lewis County on Sept. 24.

Investigators are treating the disappearance as a crime but have made no arrests and named no suspects.

Lena Lunsford is being represented by federal public defender Brian Kornbrath.

Article Photos

The Inter-Mountain photo by Anthony Gaynor
Lena Lunsford rushes to get into her vehicle following a hearing Tuesday at the Jennings Randolph Federal Center in Elkins, where she pleaded guilty to one count of a six-count indictment regarding federal welfare charges. Lunsford was surrounded by protesters as she left the building.

She had been indicted on multiple counts in October, accused of swapping for cash five times in two months.

During Tuesday's hearing, Kaull questioned Lunsford in order to assess her ability to understand her plea decision. During questioning, she acknowledged being treated with medication for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Lunsford also acknowledged she recognized all the rights she will lose as a convicted felon.

When asked by Kaull how she would plead to count six of the indictment, Lunsford said, "I plead guilty, sir."

Lunsford will be sentenced by Judge John Preston Bailey in the next six to eight weeks, and she will face a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and one year of supervised release. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn A. Morgan and investigated by the FBI and the West Virginia State Police's Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

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.

- The Associated Press contributed to this article.



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