A Lula woman with an infant daughter was spared from serving time in prison for her role in a scheme that defrauded the government of money meant to provide meals for poor children.
Maykie Blevins, 29, dabbed at her face with tissues in a sentencing hearing for tax fraud Wednesday in U.S. District Court.
"I feel like I’m in a situation where I ask myself, ‘How did I get here,’" a tearful Blevins told Judge William C. O’Kelley. "I just don’t understand a lot of things."
Prosecutors say Blevins accepted $193,000 in checks from her mother, Molly A. Smith. Smith, who operated the Georgia Nutrition Program, stole the money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture by submitting false applications to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, according to the government.
Smith’s business routinely applied for government funds that reimbursed day care centers for serving meals to low-income children. Prosecutors believe Smith fraudulently obtained about $777,900 in USDA money.
O’Kelley sentenced Smith to four years, nine months in prison on July 7.
Blevins was not charged with program fraud. She pleaded guilty to failing to pay the IRS $49,000 in taxes. Prosecutors said she spent the money her mother gave her on charge card debt and a house mortgage.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Baker asked O’Kelley to sentence Blevins to a prison term ranging from 12 to 18 months.
Instead, after noting Blevins’ 3-month old infant in the arms of the child’s father in the courtroom gallery, O’Kelley settled on a sentence of five years of probation.
The first 90 days must be spent in home confinement, except for going to and from work. She must also pay immediate restitution to the IRS, pay a $3,000 fine and perform 200 hours of community service. Any violations of the terms of her probation could land her in prison.
Baker told the judge that Blevins’ mother was the main instigator of the fraud and "the brains of the operation."
O’Kelley said he believed the sentence was fair in light of the circumstances, and that he made some conditions of probation severe "so that the defendant knows she didn’t get away with something."