Bedbug victim accused of welfare fraud

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.

Sun Journal file photo

Kathleen Schidzig shows off her condemned Lewiston home in 2010. Schidzig has been charged with criminal fraud by DHHS and is scheduled to go to trial in Androscoggin County Superior Court in May.

Submitted photo

Kenneth Hardy, fiance of Kathleen Schidzig.

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.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

Dumb

If they hadn't been dumb enough to do this story in the paper, they never would have got caught. This happens WAY too much- we all see it all the time. How do you think you see someone receiving welfare, food stamps, medicaid and housing assistance and they are driving a better car than someone that works 40+ hours a week?
Someone legitimately living on welfare benefits does not have the money for a nice car and clothes.
I'm sorry, but they shouldn't be able to dress better and drive a better car than their working neighbors, they don't earn the money.
I understand the need for benefits as I would never want to see any child go hungry or homeless - but it's been used and abused way too much and it's frustrating for hard working lower income people that struggle and work 2 or 3 jobs and can still not afford what the welfare family next door has

Denisa Laflamme's picture

I agree

Carrie

I agree with you, if they cant afford to pay their own rent and buy their own groceries than how can they afford to own new vehicles and where the best clothes....boils down to abuse in the system, but then you do have those families that dont have anything and dont use the benefits to pay for anything except their drug habit and the kids suffer.....again abuse of the system. What really blows my mind are those that work their lives away end up with needing help for a short time and get denied.....

 's picture

Welfare

And now you wonder why Paul LePage was so concerned about addressing the welfare abuse.

PHILIP LAINE's picture

No More Welfare

She should be banned from any more welfare even if she moves to another state.

 's picture

Penalties

The penalty for stealing 10 grand from DHS should be at least as great as the penalty for stealing a million from the DOD. Or have I got it the wrong way around?

GARY SAVARD's picture

These folks must be part of

These folks must be part of that small minority of people that, according to Baldacci's DHHS Commissioner, actually commit fraud. There isn't a problem with our welfare system so any reform proposals will only hurt our "most vulnerable". I think that includes the thousands of people around the state that make a living enabling people like Schidzig to milk the system. We definately need tougher guidelines and better enforcement.

Mark Elliott's picture

Yes, they need to set an

Yes, they need to set an example with this case for sure!

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