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Albany woman convicted of public assistance fraud

ALBANY, Ga. — An Albany woman accused of lying to the state about her housing situation so that she could continue to get public assistance was convicted Thursday by a Dougherty County jury.

Carol Ann Johnson must spend the next five years on probation and repay the $5,093 she was convicted of bilking from the state, as well as pay a $1,000 fine, following sentencing by Chief Superior Court Judge Willie Lockette.

Johnson was indicted on charges that she hid her marriage from the state of Georgia so that she could qualify for a housing subsidy that, at times, paid for all but $11 of her monthly rent, Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards said.

Johnson was one of about 80 people on housing assistance who were part of a sweep in 2010 conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and the U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Inspector General. Of those, Edwards estimates that "five or six" remain in the legal process awaiting trial.

"She was a part of that roundup and has been one of the few who had maintained her innocence throughout," Edwards said.

Edwards has been receiving some criticism for spending two years to bring Johnson, who was convicted of fraudulently obtaining $5,093 in subsidies, to trial.

"Yeah, I'm aware of the criticisms, but we do these types of cases really because of two reasons. One, the taxpayers are the victims, so we seek to bring justice to them in hopes that ultimately the money that was taken gets paid back and, two, because you have to police this stuff or people will continually attempt to abuse the system and deprive those who have a legitimate need and are following the rules," Edwards said. "In this case, Mrs. Johnson executed her right to a trial and maintained her innocence rather than owning up to what she did."

Edwards said that before the case went to trial, he offered Johnson a deal to accept responsibility and pay the money back, but she refused to accept it. Once the matter came to court, he said, he pushed for jail time "to deter others from taking advantage of the system."

Between August 2007 and July 2008 the state issued more than $5,000 in housing assistance on Johnson's behalf based on a program application in which she checked boxes indicating that she was single despite the fact that she married Kevin Ashberry in March 2005. Ashberry was called as a government witness during the trial, but invoked his spousal immunity in refusing to testify against Johnson.

Johnson's attorneys argued unsuccessfully that Johnson had no control over Ashberry's actions, including when he changed his mailing address to her home on Malone Drive and changed the address on his vehicle registration to Johnson's house.

Comments

VSU 1 year, 9 months ago

1 down and several thousand more to go, but basically all she got was a slap on the wrist as her punishment outside of paying back the money. Now they've got to rob or cheat someone else to get the money to pay back the money she stole in the first place plus the $1000 fine.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 9 months ago

I bet she drove a fine ride too.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 9 months ago

Hope they will keep an eye on her to make sure she pays it back. They ought to offer a stiff reward to report these type folks.

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BettyBowTie 1 year, 9 months ago

The State office of the Inspector General has a hotline. Not sure about rewards but I do know one of the investigators. Does her best to catch these people then watches the courts do little to nothing to them.

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TRUTH101 1 year, 9 months ago

They should garnish her check.........if she is not working then they should take 3/4 of her tax return......

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 9 months ago

"not working........tax return..........."??? WTF????

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Cartman 1 year, 9 months ago

Go get 'em Greg. I think a long term of community service should be in her future after a brief prison sentence.

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Shorty50 1 year, 9 months ago

Let's see, 3 years to get one of 80 to trial. How long will it take to get the other 79 to court?
There is much more fraud around (Medicaid, IRS, Peachcare, etc.) than just these 80 cases. Need some prosecutors dedicated to bringing these folks to justice.

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cleanup 1 year, 9 months ago

PEOPLE LIKE JOHNSON AND OTHERS, THAT ARE DOING SO WRONG , MAKES IT HARD FOR HONEST PEOPLE TO GET ASSISTANCE

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whattheheck 1 year, 9 months ago

Let's run the numbers again. On Sec 8 housing choice vouchers,DoCo averaged about 1,500 per month in first three months of 2013 while Fulton, with more than 10 times the population, averaged about 150. In terms of dollars DoCo was $1.8 million while Fulton was $239,000 during the period.

This is in addition to over 1,000 Albany Housing Authority units and 230 city units. Further there are the non-profit subsidized housing units virtually totally subsidized, the Cutliffs of Albany. In addition to being an incubator for fatherless children, we grow our own poverty in these units, our own "field of dreams" built so they will come..

We don't provide "assistance". We provide a "career" (let's call it "public assistance receipient"): for those who work just enough to qualify for assistance which pays many times more with little effort required. For someone to pay $11 a month for housing is ridiculous.

Some, perhaps even many, of those on public assistance need to be locked up, not felt sorry for. Save feelings of sorrow for the taxpaying Americans who support those in the public assistance recipient career field. Who says government does not create jobs?

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BettyBowTie 1 year, 9 months ago

And much of the housing is better than what some of us (tax payers) live in.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 9 months ago

Sister, it is called Earned Income credit. If you have a dependent child and make less than a certain amount even if nothing, you get money back.

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BettyBowTie 1 year, 9 months ago

And they "buy" dependents from relatives and friends. Whether they are getting the EIC or working. I know people that get thousands in tax returns while I often have to pay. It is a cheaters haven, America is, and Albany is worse than most. Get food-stamps and sell them too. No need to ever work, everything you need is provided.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 9 months ago

Yes I know what it is...........just ANOTHER form of handout welfare something for nothing.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 9 months ago

aka another means for Democrats to buy votes for Life!

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dingleberry 1 year, 9 months ago

It is nice that Edwards could prosecute this one since it seems she was not a friend, no recusal this time. She will be back on the rolls soon, however, under a new identify to join the other hundreds not yet indicted.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 9 months ago

1 down.......35,000 to go in Dougherty County

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