Faces of fraud

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These cases involving welfare fraud and abuse were recently prosecuted by the Maine Attorney General’s Office:

State v. Susan M. Jamison: One count of felony theft and seven counts of felony aggravated forgery (Class B). Jamison lied about regularly attending night school and a part-time job to obtain mileage and other benefits from TANF and ASPIRE. She also submitted forged car repair bills for reimbursement. In December, she was sentenced to two years in jail, all suspended, two years of probation and $8,800 restitution in Oxford County Superior Court.

State v. Leah L. Wright: One count of felony theft and seven counts of felony aggravated forgery. Wright forged doctors’ notes to misrepresent five pregnancies over a 40-month period to obtain $4,000 in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps) benefits. She was sentenced in June to 30 days in jail at Kennebec County Superior Court.

State v. Kathleen Schidzig: One count of felony theft, one count of felony aggravated forgery and three misdemeanor counts of unsworn falsification. Schidzig lied about household composition and stole more than $20,000. On June 7, 2011, she was sentenced to three years in prison, with all but 12 months at Androscoggin County Superior Court.

State v. Sarah E. Fairbanks: One count of felony theft and two counts of misdemeanor unsworn falsification. Fairbanks is married to a lieutenant in the Brunswick Fire Department, who makes well above $50,000 per year. They are legally married and own a nice home in Brunswick together. Fairbanks falsely claimed to be separated from her husband and claimed he was not supporting the family in order to convince DHHS to pay her children’s day care expenses for almost five years, amounting to $53,000. She was sentenced to six years, with all but 13 months suspended in December 2011 at Cumberland County Superior Court.

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State v. Kelly J. McAlinden: One count of felony theft and felony aggravated forgery. McAlinden was a recipient of benefits and also a DHHS employee. She borrowed the passwords of co-workers to access the DHHS computer system and transfer cash benefits to her own EBT card and to the EBT cards of two friends. One of the friends, Melissa Walsh, also was charged. The other friend was not charged because there was insufficient evidence that she was an active participant. After a plea of guilty, McAlinden was sentenced to seven months in jail at Cumberland County Superior Court. She was indicted in 2010.

State v. Melissa C. Walsh: One count of felony theft. Walsh “loaned” her EBT card to Kelly McAlinden (see above). McAlinden fraudulently transferred benefits onto the card and then withdrew them as cash. McAlinden shared the cash with Walsh. Walsh was sentenced to 60 days in jail and ordered to pay $800 in restitution.

Steve Muise. Theft. A Massachusetts resident stole his dead father’s EBT card (dad had lived in Maine before his death). After a guilty plea in December, he was ordered to pay the balance of $200 in restitution, having already repaid $1,000. In Cumberland County Superior Court.

Tisha Oakes Smith. Theft. She claimed her husband wasn’t in the household. Due to a history of domestic violence, she was placed on a deferred disposition in December with a requirement to comply with DHHS’ repayment schedule at Androscoggin County Superior Court.

Bonnie Sarmiento. Theft by deception. Sarmiento was indicted in Caribou in 2011 for misrepresenting her household composition and expenses reimbursed by ASPIRE from 2005 through 2008. The charge was resolved through a deferred disposition in October, in part due to the age of the case at the time of the referral to the Attorney General’s Office.

Emily Sheffield. A DHHS employee who diverted client EBT cards to her own use. The case was resolved through a misdemeanor plea in York County Superior Court last month.

Pending cases:

Amy Knowlton. Charged with theft by deception for misrepresenting her household composition. A trial is likely to be scheduled for March in Oxford County Superior Court.

Theresa Rice-Goodrich. Charged with theft by deception for misrepresenting that her children lived with her. Her case is pending in Kennebec County Superior Court.

EBT trafficking cases: David Stain, Katherine Pike, Manny Souza, Robert Baylor and Christopher Frazer were charged with felonies in Androscoggin County Superior Court last month in an EBT selling and trading ring. William Dunn, Shanon Drummond, Duane Thomas and Frank Ramsdell were charged with misdemeanors in the same ring.

Source:  Maine Attorney General’s Office

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