Have you ever done something that was considered “bad” or “illegal” by mistake? Maybe you just didn’t know you were doing it, or didn’t know there was a rule prohibiting it. Perhaps you’ve never said it, but you might know someone who has: “Officer, I honestly didn’t know the speed limit – I am not familiar with the area,” or “I’m sorry, but I never saw the sign that directed ‘No Turn on Red.’” Today’s Fraud of the Day from the Oxford Hills Sun Journal is about just that – a woman who committed fraud and subsequently claimed she didn’t even know it was wrong.
The article reports that a mother of four was convicted of defrauding the state of Maine and the U.S. Government out of roughly $18,000 in food stamps, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and MaineCare benefits. (Let me guess, she didn’t know that she defrauding three separate entities?) Although she was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail, the defendant remains free on bail until a decision from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court rules on her appeal.
The defendant pleaded to the judge, “Nothing I did or didn’t do was intentional.” (It’s truly an infamous line.) According to investigators, the things she “did and didn’t do” include collecting benefits from MaineCare and TANF, while neglecting to disclose the earnings her then-boyfriend, now husband, made as a fisherman. Investigators also found that she had access to his money, in a shared account, which she used to manage expenses for their children. (I don’t understand – I guess the directions about reporting ALL INCOME not clear enough?)
So, what can we learn from this? Failing to accurately fill out an application has consequences – big ones. And, one of the key factors in determining eligibility for benefits is often household income. When it comes to applying for federal and state aid, the details matter.