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Welfare fraud nets man one year in prison

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A Stafford County man was ordered Monday to serve a year in prison for obtaining more than $6,000 in public assistance that he was not entitled to.

Lewis Garfield Thomas Jr., 43, had previously been convicted in Stafford Circuit Court of obtaining money by false pretenses. Judge Charles Sharp sentenced him to a total of five years in prison with four years suspended.

According to prosecutor George Elsasser, Thomas applied for and received two types of public assistance benefits starting in September 2011. In his application, he said he was unemployed when he was actually working, Elsasser said.

He received the payments illegally for about nine months until May of 2012, when he married a South American immigrant and picked up enough dependents to legally qualify for the aid.

An investigation conducted by social services last year revealed that Thomas had committed fraud when he started getting benefits and collected $6,338 worth of services he was not entitled to.

“He was essentially a welfare cheat,” Elsasser said. “He in effect stole money from people who were in far greater need than him.”

Thomas apologized for his actions Monday, saying he knew what he did was wrong and that he was trying to do things the right way now. He is no longer eligible for public services.

As part of his suspended sentence, Thomas was ordered to repay the money he illegally obtained.

Keith Epps: 540/374-5404


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