LEWISTON — A woman who was forced to move out of her Spring Street home last year after the city condemned the building is facing jail time, accused of defrauding the Department of Health and Human Services of more than $10,000 over a 28-month period.
Kathleen Schidzig, 31, who was featured in a Sun Journal story last year about raw sewage seeping into her family’s basement and bedbugs throughout the rental home, is scheduled for trial in Androscoggin County Superior Court next month on five counts of defrauding the government.
During the time of the alleged fraud, Schidzig was living in Lewiston, but has since moved to Portland.
According to her court-appointed attorney, Amanda Doherty of Portland, Schidzig is scheduled to discuss the case with Assistant Attorney General Peter Black on Monday, after which she will make a decision about whether to go to trial or enter into a plea agreement.
Between October 2007 and February 2010, according to court records, Schidzig schemed to defraud the state by falsifying applications for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, and Additional Support for People in Retraining and Education, or ASPIRE.
She allegedly did this by misleading DHHS about her relationship with Kenneth Hardy, 30, the father of her four children, through false written statements that he was not a member of their household and did not provide financial support to the home or the children. In her applications for state assistance, she said Hardy, who works as a mason, lived in Houlton and she was raising their children as a single parent.
Schidzig faces felony charges of theft by deception and aggravated forgery, and three misdemeanor charges of unsworn falsification.
If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in jail and $20,000 in fines on each of the felony charges, and less than a year in jail and a $2,000 on each misdemeanor.
In addition to the alleged theft of TANF and ASPIRE funds, according to court records, Schidzig is charged with forging the signature of a Burger King assistant manager on a document attesting the Lisbon Street restaurant hired Schidzig to work full time in December 2009. That document was included as part of Schidzig’s renewal application to DHHS for social services.
Throughout her applications for state assistance, Schidzig repeatedly said that Hardy was not providing child support for their children, or living in the household as part of the family. In an application she signed in October 2007, where she was questioned whether Hardy lived with the family, she initially checked off “yes,” but scratched that box out and answered “no.” On that same application, Schidzig provided Hardy’s last known address as her own, at 48 Oak St. in Lewiston.
Schidzig lived on Oxford Street in Lewiston in 2008 during the time she was receiving social services, before moving to the condemned Spring Street address.
In April last year, Schidzig and Hardy were interviewed by the Sun Journal about the condemnation of that home, which they said they started renting as a family shortly before Christmas 2009.
According to Doherty, Schidzig and Hardy have an “on again, off again” relationship, and she was not sure of the status of their current relationship.
The family left the Spring Street home for an apartment in Portland on April 22, 2010, telling the Sun Journal they furnished it with items they got from Goodwill, the Salvation Army and Knights of Columbus.
At the time, Hardy said the family abandoned their personal property instead of moving it so they would not be moving the bedbug infestation to their new home.
Hardy has not been charged in connection with the alleged fraud.
Schidzig has a criminal history dating back to 1998 for nine various misdemeanor convictions in Androscoggin and Cumberland counties for assault, disorderly conduct, obstructing government administration, OUI and carrying a concealed weapon. She has spent a total of six days in jail as part of the sentences connected to these convictions, and paid more than $900 in fines over the years.
Her last conviction was Feb. 22, 2011, on the misdemeanor weapons charge in Portland.
Schidzig and Hardy have four children; the youngest is 20 months old.