PARIS — A Rumford woman was found guilty Wednesday of defrauding Maine and the U.S. government of more than $10,000 in food stamps, TANF and MaineCare benefits.
Amy Knowlton, 30, was found guilty of felony theft by deception by a jury of seven men and five women after about 45 minutes of deliberation in Oxford County Superior Court.
Knowlton's family was quiet during the reading of the verdict and left the courthouse soon after. The court will set a sentencing date for June or July.
The maximum sentence on the theft charge is 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. Knowlton also could be required to pay back the money she took.
Jurors listened to summation arguments from both sides Wednesday morning. The verdict came at about 1:15 p.m.
The state says that between October 2006 and March 2009, Knowlton had access to her then-boyfriend's money while collecting more than $18,000 in food stamps, Temporary Aid for Needy Families and MaineCare benefits. An investigator from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said Knowlton wouldn't have received those benefits if she had reported her boyfriend's income.
The defendant's boyfriend, whom she later married, had maintained a legal residence in New Hampshire while she was collecting benefits. Knowlton maintained that she told her DHHS caseworker she was getting financial help from her boyfriend at the time, and that DHHS did not ask for more information on the arrangement.
Before the verdict, her husband, Scott Knowlton, said the DHHS had erred, not his wife. “She did all the right things. The DHHS didn't.” He made reference to recent comments by Gov. Paul LePage that middle management in state government is corrupt. “I think LePage is right,” he said.
Amy Knowlton said she had access to Scott Knowlton's money to pay for living expenses, but that the money belonged to him. State prosecutors said Amy Knowlton should have claimed that money when declaring her assets to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
Knowlton also was charged with unsworn falsification, but that charge was dropped before the trial. She told the court that, to her knowledge, her boyfriend was living in New Hampshire while he was working on the fishing boat and she didn't consider him a member of the household.