AUGUSTA — Relatives of a Litchfield woman wailed aloud Friday in the courtroom as she was put in handcuffs and taken to jail after being sentenced for welfare theft.

Kelly J. Burgess, 49, was sentenced at the Capital Judicial Center to an initial 120 days in jail, the unsuspended portion of a two-year jail sentence. She also was placed on probation for three years and ordered to pay restitution for the $24,000 in MaineCare and food stamp benefits stolen.

She had pleaded guilty on June 10, 2016, in the same courthouse to theft by deception and four counts of unsworn falsification that occurred June 1, 2011 through Jan. 31, 2014.

Burgess’ daughters, who spoke briefly to the judge during the sentencing hearing, and others in the courtroom began cursing and wailing as Burgess was taken into custody. Several asked why she was going to jail immediately. Court security officers told the people to leave or be arrested, and they eventually left.

According to the indictment, Burgess applied for benefits from the Department of Health and Human Services and indicated that the father of her children was not living with her and not contributing to the household.

On Friday the prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Darcy Mitchell, said that was untrue and that the father was living there and contributing regularly to a joint account to which Burgess had access.

“This was a man who had been with her for 30 years,” Mitchell told Justice Michaela Murphy, adding that the father continued to support Burgess and their two children and that neighbors saw him coming and going during the period of more than two years covered in the indictment.

“There was no evidence they were anything but an intact household,” Mitchell said.

In fact, Burgess said Friday that she borrowed $5,000 from the father of her children to pay toward the restitution.

“I never thought about how the consequences of my actions would affect my family,” Burgess told the judge. “I couldn’t work and lost health insurance. I asked state for help; it was a poor decision.”

She apologized to everyone and promised, “I will never ever ever do anything like this again.”

She said she hoped to go back to college to become a registered nurse.

However, the judge warned her it was unlikely the state would license her, given the felony conviction.

In response to questions from her attorney, Leonard Sharon, Burgess said the father of her children didn’t want to marry her when she asked him to in order for her to get on his health insurance.

She said she lost her health insurance in one instance because she missed work because of the pain from fibromyalgia.

“It’s a miserable thing to have,” she said. She had been working as a certified nursing assistant. “Physically, I just wasn’t capable of doing the job I had.”

At one point, Murphy told Sharon, “The crime is not being poor or struggling economically or having difficult family life. The crime is lying to get benefits.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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