A former Randolph couple pleaded guilty to welfare fraud charges and were each sentenced to serve jail time and jointly repay $21,673 restitution in a case where one defense attorney says they were affected by a state welfare statute that favors people having separate households.

Harrison Taylor Jr., 47, now of Augusta, pleaded guilty last week to theft by deception that occurred between November 2008 and December 2013. He was sentenced to serve an initial 60 days and the remainder of the two-year sentence was suspended. He was also placed on two years’ probation.

Deborah Taylor, 48, of Randolph, entered an Alford guilty plea to the charge of theft by deception that occurred between October 2008 and April 2014 in Randolph.

“She doesn’t admit she did the things the state said she did, but she does admit that if a jury heard the things the state says it has, they might convict her so she’s going to take a deal,” said her attorney, Stephen Smith.

She was sentenced to serve an initial 30 days and the remainder of the two-year sentence was suspended. She was also placed on two years’ probation. Both Taylors were ordered to contribute to the $21,673 restitution for the state’s food stamp program.

“What actually happened was they got married out of the best intentions,” Smith said on Monday. “They got divorced when this problem came up because their legal problems were only because they were married.”

The couple was married in Augusta June 6, 2006, and divorced in March 21, 2014, according to records at the Capital Judicial Center, where the sentencing hearing was held. They were each indicted on the charges in March 2015.

“There’s a real public policy problem here,” Smith said. “The Legislature might want to consider not imposing a marriage penalty on folks collecting welfare who get married or may wish to consider a sliding scale that takes into account how close most people in these circumstances are to the poverty line.”

He said the couple was eligible to receive less money once they married and combined households.

“Even if it’s the same two people eating the same amount of calories, they get less money,” he said.

Smith said the defense maintained the couple was mostly living apart.

Attorney Stephen Bourget, who represented Harrison Taylor, said Monday that his client fixes up lawn mowers and sells them to make money and that he has lost his Social Security assistance as well.

Assistant Attorney General John Alsop said the Class D misdemeanor charges of unsworn falsification were dismissed against each defendant in exchange for the pleas to the Class B felony theft charges.

“From the state’s point of view, they were pretending they were not living together when they were,” Alsop said on Monday.

One court filing in the case shows Alsop seeking records from child protective proceedings that indicated that a son of Harrison Taylor’s was placed with the couple in March 2010.

Alsop’s motion says Deborah Taylor “was asserting to one branch of DHHS that she was living apart from her spouse, and she was asserting to another branch of DHHS that she was living together with her spouse in a family environment suitable for placement of Harrison Taylor’s son in the home.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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