An Augusta man who suffers from a litany of health problems was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court to probation for defrauding the government.

Benjamin Peaslee Sr., 62, was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to repay more than $34,000 in restitution.

Peaslee, who over a two-year period sold a portion of his Oxycontin prescription pay for additional pills, in March 2013 pleaded guilty to charges of concealing information material to eligibility for Social Security benefits and making false statements in a federal matter.

Justice John A. Woodcock Jr. handed down the sentence at the federal court in Bangor.

“This is what we asked for,” said Peaslee’s attorney Hunter J. Tzovarras. “The judge seemed to agree under the circumstances.”

Tzovarras, in a sentencing memorandum released earlier this month, said Peaslee must use a wheelchair and suffers from numerous health problems so severe that it caused the legal proceedings against him to be delayed on a number of occasions. Peaslee also has trouble using his hands and takes a variety of pills daily to combat various afflictions, including diabetes, hypertension, arthritis and emphysema.

Each charge carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Tzovarras said the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gail Fisk Malone, was seeking an unspecified jail sentence.

Prosecutors say Peaslee admitted selling a dozen of the name-brand pills each month for $100 each so he could get cash to buy the next month’s supply while he was receiving federal benefits.

In 2007, he received a prescription to ease his back, hip and wrist pain.

“MaineCare would not cover the name brand OxyContin prescription,” Tzovarras wrote in the sentencing memorandum. “Mr. Peaslee felt he needed the name brand prescription.”

Peaslee found the generic brand hurt his stomach and failed to treat his pain as effectively, Tzovarras wrote.

The court documents say Peaslee failed to disclose the $1,200 monthly income to either Social Security or the Department of Health and Human Services, “even though he knew he was supposed to.”

“The crime was that he didn’t tell Social Security that he was getting the extra $1,200 to get the pills with,” Tzovarras said after last year’s plea.

Peaslee, who had worked as a logger from the age of 10, began receiving Supplemental Security Income benefits in 1984 because of his injuries.

The government says Peaslee never reported the income from selling the pills, and that Peaslee received payments of $22,722 in Supplemental Security Income benefits through Social Security, plus $17,297 in drug and medical claims paid on his behalf and $733 in food assistance benefits from the Department of Health & Human Services.

Records show Peaslee paid an average of $1,100 a month in cash for the prescription from the Walmart pharmacy from January 2008.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4


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