GRANITE FALLS — A Granite Falls man has been charged with receiving more than $26,000 in welfare benefits by providing false information to Chippewa County Human Services.

Jeff Shanta Gray, 40, appeared Sept. 21 in Chippewa County District Court on one felony charge of wrongfully obtaining assistance by allegedly providing fraudulent information to receive cash and food assistance.

He was booked and released from the Chippewa County Jail. His next court appearance is Nov. 9.

Gray allegedly sought assistance for a child who was not living with him. Gray’s estranged wife told investigators that she had been caring for his child since 2015.

According to the court file, she is not the biological mother but is the child’s legal guardian. She told investigators that Gray bought food for a short time in 2019 but not before or since. The wife’s mother confirmed to investigators that Gray was not caring for the child and had little to with the child, though they lived in the same apartment building.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

School records indicate that Gray has not enrolled the child in school activities or attended activities or conferences. According to county records, Gray applied for assistance from 2015 through 2019, including aid to care for the child who had not been living with him. He has allegedly not worked for pay since 2014.

During an interview with an investigator, Gray said he had used the assistance partly for himself and partly for his child and had purchased food, clothing and toys for the child, according to court records. He could not provide specific information about when or where he purchased things for the child and did not have photos of the child on his phone. He told the investigator he has 10 biological children and had visitation rights with one daughter.

County officials said Gray had received assistance for food and care for the child only and would not have received it otherwise.