AUGUSTA — A former Waterville woman will spend an initial four months in jail and the remainder of her two-year prison term was suspended Tuesday after she pleaded guilty to illegally obtaining more than $32,000 in welfare benefits.

Chelsey Johnson, 29, who recently moved to Clinton, was sentenced at the Capital Judicial Center. She also was placed on two years of probation.

She pleaded guilty to theft by deception that occurred from July 1, 2012 to Aug. 31, 2014, and to two charges of unsworn falsification of food supplement applications, one dated Nov. 26, 2013, and the other June 6, 2014, all in Kennebec County.

The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Darcy Mitchell, said Johnson obtained benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Program and MaineCare and failed to disclose her employment, and that her household’s income was different from what she had stated on applications.

Mitchell said the state Department of Health and Human Services began an investigation after receiving a report about a quarterly wage discrepancy.

She also said that under an agreement reached with the defense, the state was seeking restitution of $14,578, which represents the food stamps portion of the benefits, and not the MaineCare money.

The MaineCare money was used to pay Discovery House for recovery treatment for Johnson and her partner.

“My intentions were not to (commit) fraud,” Johnson told the judge in court. “I take full responsibility and understand now. This has been a real eye-opener for me. I just want to get this over so I can move forward.”

Mitchell and defense attorney Pamela Ames argued over the initial in-custody portion of the sentence. Mitchell sought six months, saying Johnson “lied about multiple aspects of household circumstances for a number of years” and said that amount of time was in line with other sentences for similar offenses.

“We are not contesting that it is fraud,” Ames said. “(Johnson) should have updated that information.”

Ames recommended a two-month initial incarceration, saying that would allow Johnson to do the time in the summer when her grandparents would be able to help with her two young children, one of whom has special needs.

She said Johnson had been a heroin addict since age 18 and has been on a series of decreasing methadone doses in preparation for going to jail, has moved her children to a more stable environment and has been active with their school in Clinton.

“She has done a phenomenal job with her children,” Ames said, adding, “She has always worked and done a variety of jobs even through all of this.”

Stokes said a four-month initial sentence “is in line with what is appropriate” and that Johnson had taken “limited public resources which need to go to those who are eligible.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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