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Article updated: 6/11/2012 5:40 PM

Former state worker gets jail, probation for food stamp scam

Ebony Martin

Ebony Martin

 
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A former caseworker for the Illinois Department of Human Services was sentenced to probation and jail Monday for stealing nearly $22,000 in food stamps, some of which she sold to friends and relatives at a discount.

Ebony Martin, 34, of Maywood, pleaded guilty to felony theft in April. She was sentenced to three years of probation, a month in jail and full restitution by DuPage County Judge Robert Kleeman.

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Prosecutors said Martin was working at the IDHS office in Villa Park when she set up a public-assistance plan for a Lisle man who turned out to be her boyfriend and his four fictitious children.

In less than a year, authorities said, the couple collected $21,866 in food benefits. Martin sold some of the proceeds to friends and family members at half price, Prosecutor Diane Michalak said in court.

"She was making a profit on top of defrauding the government," Michalak said.

Illinois State Police Sgt. Daphne Bankston testified that the scheme was uncovered after the Illinois Inspector General's Office received a tip last year. She said an investigation showed Martin inflated the benefits by using bogus social security numbers to make it look like her boyfriend had four children when he didn't.

"She admitted she created the file and kept it at her desk because she knew it was fraudulent," Bankston testified.

Martin offered a brief apology in court, saying she was "embarrassed by the decision I made."

Kleeman said he was "puzzled" at why Martin would steal, given her education, employment and lack of a prior criminal history.

But it was aggravating, he said, that she held public office and essentially stole from taxpayers.

"It's more than just a bad decision," he said. "The public placed its trust in this defendant. She abused it. There's no other way to put it. She knowingly and intentionally gave away public funds."

Martin must report to jail June 18 and pay restitution within three years. With credit for time served, she will be jailed for 13 days, authorities said.

Police are still searching for her former boyfriend, 39-year-old Keith B. Jones, who was charged in March with felony theft and state benefits fraud, according to court records. He last lived on the 500 block of Maple Avenue in Lisle.

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