Information provided by the Genesee County Department of Social Services is included in this story.
Sarah Wilson, 32, of Alexander Road in Alexander, was sentenced in Genesee County Court Thursday afternoon to four months intermittent jail time and five years probation after pleading guilty to a single count of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree, a felony.
In addition to this charge, she was originally facing a second felony, one count of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, and one count of petit larceny, a misdemeanor. Those charges were dismissed.
She was arrested last fall after a joint investigation by the Genesee County Department of Social Services and the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department.
Wilson had submitted the forged medical statement to the Department of Social Services in October, which she claimed had been completed by a local doctor. An alert social welfare examiner at DSS reviewed the form and noticed the doctor’s name was spelled incorrectly on the medical form that had been submitted and the examiner submitted the case for investigation.
The investigation that followed revealed the medical statement allegedly had not been completed or signed by the doctor. Wilson was arrested by Sheriff's Investigator Joseph Graff and jailed on $1,000 bail.
Assistant District Attorney Melissa Cianfrini agreed that the recommendation of intermittent jail time and probation -- also called "shock probation" -- was appropriate in this case.
The prosecutor told Acting Genesee County Court Judge Michael F. Pietruszka that this "was not your typical welfare fraud case," because Wilson purposely forged the doctor's note -- to either avoid certain types of assets from being withheld or to get or maintain benefits -- and she told different stories about her involvement to different people and in a letter to the judge declared she did not intend to defraud DSS.
"She continues to minimize her involvement," Cianfrini said.
Wilson's attorney, Public Defender Jerry Ader, disagreed.
"I think my client is not trying to minimize her involvement," Ader said. "She's facing the first felony violation in her life. ... There are supreme consequences at this point."
One of them is the impact the consequences of her crime will have on parenting. She has several children, but only custody of a tot who must use a nebulizer (breathing apparatus). It was indicated that care for that child might be problematic while she's in custody.
Asked by the judge if she had anything to say on her behalf, a sniffling Wilson, who kept wiping tears away with her left hand, said "No."
She was also ordered to pay restitution, pursue a job and/or employable skills, and to get a mental health evaluation and a substance abuse evaluation.
She is due at the jail at 5 p.m. today and will spend most of Memorial Day weekend in custody -- through 5 p.m. Sunday, for her first go-round at shock probation.
Anyone wishing to report suspected cases of welfare fraud in Genesee County can contact the Genesee County Department of Social Services Fraud Investigation Unit at (585)344-2580, ext. 6417 or 6416. All calls are confidential.