A woman in Lewiston, Maine, pleaded guilty to illegally accepting more than $20,000 in state and federal welfare benefits.
The Sun Journal reports that 45-year-old Sherry Awadjie openly admitted in federal court that over the course of two years, she accepted thousands of dollars in welfare benefit money that she was not entitled to.
The news outlet obtained court documents that revealed Awadjie received public assistance benefits for more than two years by claiming that she was unemployed because a disability prevented her from working. She is now facing up to 10 years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000.
The hearing for sentencing is said to be scheduled for after the U.S Probation Office concludes their “pre-sentencing” investigation.
The pilfered welfare benefit dollars came from three separate programs.
According to Bangor Daily News, between November of 2015 and May of 2017, Awadjie received $3,500 in SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), almost $1,700 in MaineCare benefits, and an estimated $15,000 in Social Security benefits.
While Sherry claimed that she was unable to work a public job due to disability, she was actually working a gainful full-time job. She, however, chose not to disclose her income change to any of the benefit programs.
Bangor Daily News reveals that if she had reported the actual amount of income, she was receiving from her job, she would have not been eligible to receive any of the benefits.
FACTS: fraud represents a tiny 0.9% of the #SNAP program, which means that 99% of the program's funding went to putting meals on the table. Get the truth about #SNAPfraud from @forbes. https://t.co/8M8yVTyZ15
— Food Policy Action (@FPAction) April 5, 2018
Furthermore, several sources, including The Sun Journal, have reported that Awadjie made arrangements with her employer to help keep her employment a secret from the government. They had a standing agreement that Sherry would be paid under the table to avoid having traceable, taxable income. They also had set a future arrangement for Awadjie to receive her regular paychecks under a different name to continue to hide her income.
The woman’s case has been investigated by several authorities, including the Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ Fraud Investigation and Recovery Unit, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General, the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement, and the Social Security Administration’s Inspector General.
— WMTW TV (@WMTWTV) February 23, 2019
Awadjie has already pleaded guilty to her crimes and awaits sentencing upon the completion of various investigations. No date for the sentencing hearing has been released as of yet.
It also remains unknown if her employer or any of her co-workers who knew of her criminal actions and helped her commit them by paying her under the table and under false names will also face charges related to the crime.