AUGUSTA — A Litchfield man convicted of illegally collecting monthly welfare benefits while also receiving private annuity payments of about $110,000 in lump sums plus $1,000 a month was sentenced Friday to an initial 15 months in jail.

Philip Justin Fitzherbert, 31, was convicted by a jury Oct. 2 of two counts of theft by deception and five counts of unsworn falsification for indicating on state benefit applications that he had no other income.

On Friday, Judge Evert Fowle, who presided at the trial, said Fitzherbert essentially was stealing from the state.

Fowle suspended the remainder of the four-year sentence and ordered Fitzherbert to pay more than $27,000 in restitution plus a $10,000 fine.

The restitution and fine are expected to be withheld from another annuity payment Fitzherbert is expecting.

Fitzherbert’s attorney, Hank Hainke, said Friday that the annuity payments are a result of a motor vehicle crash that Fitzherbert and his mother were in when Fitzherbert was 12 and their vehicle was hit by a large truck.

“He’s had lifelong disabilities,” Hainke said, adding that when Fitzherbert received the settlement, an attorney told him the money was his, the taxes were paid and he should not tell anybody about it.

“Most likely it was so people wouldn’t take advantage of him,” Hainke said, rather than indicating it should not be reported to proper authorities when asked. Hainke said Fitzherbert has cognitive difficulties and most likely did not understand his obligations.

Fowle denied Fitzherbert’s request for a two-week stay to finish work at his home so his family could live there.

He ordered the sentence to begin immediately.

Fitzherbert looked down and covered his face with his hands.

Afterward Hainke said, “What I’m most concerned about is he has severe physical and mental disabilities. He receives methadone for pain management and medication to stop his muscle spasms, medication to sleep and medication to stop his anxiety, and I’d be very concerned if he doesn’t get those medications in jail, because his symptoms won’t be dealt with and the withdrawal is very serious.”

According to the indictment, Fitzherbert received more than $10,000 from the government from June 2008 to November 2013 in benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, MaineCare and the State Supplement Program by falsely indicating that his only income was from Social Security or other public assistance. The second theft by deception charge says Fitzherbert received $1,000 to $10,000 from the federal Supplemental Security Income program from November 2010 to September 2013, again by falsely indicating his only income was from Social Security or other public assistance.

At the trial, the prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Darcy Mitchell, told jurors that Fitzherbert received $22,404.09 from the state Department of Health & Human Services and $5,160 from the Supplemental Security Income program over the five-year period. She said he failed to disclose an annuity he was receiving at the same time.

On Friday she said he received three lump sum payments — $30,000, $50,000 and $30,000 — during the years when he received the welfare benefits. The first payment came in just before he started to receive state money.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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