PARIS, Maine — The trial of a Rumford woman accused of welfare fraud began Monday in Oxford County Superior Court.
State investigators say Amy L. Knowlton, 30, unlawfully took more than $10,000 in food stamps, MaineCare and TANF benefits by failing to report her husband’s earnings as a fisherman off the coast of Alaska, which in some years exceeded $100,000.
The state says the fraud took place from October 2006 to March 2009.
Knowlton’s attorney, Peter Rodway, said his client told caseworkers more than once that her then-boyfriend, Scott Knowlton, was paying household expenses, including for the care of their child. Rodway said Amy Knowlton truthfully told her caseworker at the Department of Health and Human Services that her boyfriend lived and worked out of state but helped her pay her bills.
Rodway said that when Amy Knowlton first applied for benefits, she was dating Scott Knowlton and had a child from a previous marriage. She initially wrote Scott Knowlton’s name as a member of her household but it was crossed out as a caseworker said not to include him.
For much of the time Amy Knowlton received benefits, Scott Knowlton listed Amy Knowlton’s parents’ home as his home address in order to avoid paying income tax, but prosecutors from the Maine Attorney General’s Office said Scott Knowlton actually was living with his wife in Rumford when he wasn’t in Alaska.
Amy Knowlton’s brother, Elliott Hogancamp, lived with his and Amy’s parents during part of the time Scott Knowlton listed the Troy, N.H., home as his address. Hogancamp said Scott Knowlton didn’t have a bed there, and that Amy Knowlton, and sometimes Scott Knowlton, would stop in and pick up Scott Knowlton’s mail while visiting with the family.
Later, Hogancamp moved in with his sister at the Rumford home. He said all of Scott Knowlton’s guns, tools and other personal effects were in Rumford, not at the Hogancamp home in New Hampshire. Scott Knowlton was in Alaska fishing for most of the period that Hogancamp was living in the home.
Hogancamp said the charges against Amy Knowlton have caused a rift in the family, and that his identical twin brother has threatened him over his “going against the family.”
Robin Moody, a fraud investigator, said aid recipients are expected to disclose changes to their income and that TANF recipients must do so within 10 days of any changes. She said Amy Knowlton collected TANF benefits for months after marrying Scott Knowlton in late 2008.
The defendant never updated her information with DHHS after marrying, and her case was closed at the end of March 2009 when she didn’t return a form requesting an update on her financial situation.
Moody said Amy Knowlton only provided her personal checking account information with DHHS, while not mentioning two joint accounts she had with Scott Knowlton. She said the defendant filed several updates as required when receiving TANF and food stamps benefits but never listed her boyfriend’s income.
The trial is set to continue Tuesday morning.
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