GREEN BAY - A Green Bay woman was convicted Monday of illegally receiving $25,416 in taxpayer-funded public assistance.
Graciela Antonio is in the country illegally, but her attorney and the state agreed to a deal in hopes of keeping her in the area.
According to court documents, the 29-year-old woman was illegally receiving taxpayer funded help for food and medical bills for her three children for five years.
"Really the victims are the community at large," said Kate Zuidmulder, assistant district attorney for Brown County.
County workers discovered Antonio's family should have been ineligible for public assistance, because she was employed under a fake name at American Foods, making $12.65 an hour. Her husband was also seasonally employed as a landscaper, making $12 an hour.
"Over a period of time, Ms. Antonio had the opportunity to report income," said Zuidmulder. "She did say that she purposely did not do that because she didn't want to lose the money that was coming in from the government."
Antonio's attorney, Charles Wingrove, and the state agreed to a plea deal. It requires Antonio pay back the overpaid benefits and court costs. She will also be on probation for two years. Wingrove says the goal of the deal was to keep Antonio out of jail, which he says lowers the probability of her being deported.
"If you have three counts of public assistance fraud and you're not even a citizen, or here legally, I don't know why would we take these great steps to make sure they're not deported," said Brown County Judge Timothy Hinkfuss.
"Bad things were done, but as the way forward this resolution is both best for my client and best for the state of Wisconsin, because if she gets deported, the people of the state of Wisconsin would be paying for those three small children," said Wingrove.
Judge Hinkfuss accepted the plea deal. He is also requiring Antonio to serve 180 hours of community service.
It isn't clear why charges were not filed against Antonio's husband. According to court documents, he is also in the country illegally.
Brown County's district attorney has not returned our phone call.
Antonio's attorney declined comment after court.
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