PORTLAND, Maine — A homebound woman from the Oxford County town of Mexico was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court to two years of probation for a scheme that doubled her money by claiming money orders that she made out to herself had been lost.
Joanne Covais, 61, would purchase a money order, then claim it had been lost. Once she received a replacement check, Covais would deposit the money order and the replacement check into her checking account.
In addition to probation, U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby ordered her to pay $34,200 in restitution to the U.S. Postal Service.
Between 2005 and 2009, she received 41 replacement checks in the mail totaling more than $34,000, according to court documents. She deposited the money in a bank account she opened with someone else’s Social Security number.
Covais, who also used the name Joelle Cuvais, waived indictment and pleaded guilty in August to two counts of mail fraud and one count of Social Security fraud.
She faced up to 20 years in prison on the mail fraud counts and up to five years in prison for the Social Security fraud. On each count, Covais faced a fine of up to $250,000.
Under the prevailing federal sentencing guidelines, her recommended sentence was between 15 and 21 months in prison. In sentencing Covais to probation, Hornby went outside the guideline range.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Chapman, who prosecuted the case, recommended that Hornby sentence Covais to some prison time.
In a sentencing memorandum dated Jan. 30, defense attorney Peter Rodway of Portland urged that his client be sentenced to probation. He cited her minor criminal history, significant health problems, including a dozen hospitalizations between April 2010 and November 2011 for low potassium, her history as a victim of domestic violence, and her success while on bail before sentencing as reasons for not sending Covais to prison.