AUGUSTA — A West Gardiner woman on Tuesday was ordered to serve an initial 90 days in jail of a two-year jail sentence and to pay $20,000 restitution for theft of state benefits, including MaineCare and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Hope Atwater, 59, was sentenced during a hearing at the Capital Judicial Center. Atwater pleaded guilty to theft by deception that occurred October 2010 through September 2014 in Kennebec County and two counts of unsworn falsification, dated Dec. 7, 2012, and Nov. 30, 2013, both in Augusta.

The remainder of her two-year sentence was suspended and she was placed on two years of probation. She is to report to jail Sept. 1.

“Hope felt terrible about what happened here,” said her defense attorney, Walter McKee, via email. “She was in dire financial straits.”

Information in the court files shows that Atwater signed documents indicating that her husband, Michael Atwater, now 60, was not contributing to the support of the household and not living there, both of which were untrue.

Michael Atwater also faces the same charges, but with different dates of offense listed. The indictment charges that the theft by deception took place March 2011 through September 2014, and the two counts of unsworn falsification on Oct. 22, 2012, and June 27, 2013, in Augusta. The indictment says he indicated Hope Atwood was not living with him and not contributing to the household during that time. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a hearing at the same courthouse on Nov. 22, 2016.


Both Atwaters were indicted on the charges in August 2015.

The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Darcy Mitchell, said the total amount taken in the theft was just over $48,000, but that the restitution amount of $20,000 was part of the plea agreement. She said $41,000 of the money was paid by MaineCare to health care providers who treated Hope Atwater, who suffered a significant medical problem and lost health care coverage when her husband lost a job.

“There were some pretty serious mitigating factors, so the sentence is somewhat lower than I would normally be requesting,” Mitchell said.

Court documents indicate that if Michael Atwater is convicted of the offenses, he must contribute to Hope Atwater’s $20,000 restitution as well.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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