July 18, 2018
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Rockland woman gets 30 days for welfare theft

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — A 69-year-old Rockland woman was sentenced Tuesday to 30 days in jail for welfare fraud.

Elizabeth Riley was sentenced by Justice Daniel Billings in Knox County Superior Court for theft by deception. The woman had been offered a 72-hour jail term more than a year earlier with the condition that she make restitution to the city of Rockland, but Riley failed to make any payments until a few months ago.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Fernald asked Tuesday for the 30-day sentence, pointing out that Riley had been given the opportunity for a lesser sentence if she repaid $371, which was half of what was given out by the city in general assistance to her boyfriend. Riley was charged because she signed paperwork in August 2011 claiming that a co-defendant, Joseph R. Shaw, was her brother so that he could receive the welfare payment.

Because they were boyfriend and girlfriend, Riley’s income should have been considered on Shaw’s application for assistance. The city’s general assistance director became suspicious and referred the matter to the city attorney, who contacted the state.

The state had originally offered a deal in which Riley would not serve any jail time but instead be fined $250 and make restitution. Justice Jeffrey Hjelm rejected that proposal in January 2013. The state then offered the 72 hours. Riley later unsuccessfully tried to get her guilty plea withdrawn.

Fernald said that the crime was a significant one that spends limited government resources on someone who does not qualify for the assistance.

After the sentence was imposed, Riley sought a stay of her jail term, saying she had a sister who was dying from cancer. Justice Billings gave Riley until Wednesday to provide the court medical records to confirm her claim before he would decide on a stay of the sentence.

Shaw was sentenced more than a year ago to 30 days in jail.


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