A woman who admitted illegally receiving more than $35,000 in welfare benefits and then lying to a grand jury about it was sent to jail Friday.
Bindra Boodhwa, 50, of Schenectady, was formally sentenced Friday to a year behind bars, having pleaded guilty in July to third-degree welfare fraud and first-degree perjury, both felonies.
She admitted to illegally taking the money from January 2008 to July 2012 by failing to tell social services officials the father of her three children was helping to support the family. When confronted, she denied the man lived there and even repeated that under oath to a grand jury investigating the case.
Her testimony, though, was contradicted by overwhelming evidence, prosecutors said, leading to the perjury charge and guilty plea.
Boodhwa showed little emotion as Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago sentenced her to the agreed-upon sentence. As she was led out of the courtroom, though, she sobbed and spoke briefly to her family in the gallery.
Prosecutor Jennifer Assini asked that the agreed-upon sentence be imposed. She said Boodhwa has shown no remorse for her actions.
“Basically she’s angry that she got caught,” Assini said.
In sentencing Boodhwa, Drago said she appeared to want to go to any means to keep her life private, including lying to a grand jury under oath.
“That won’t be tolerated,” Drago said.
The judge said she found the sentence appropriate.
Boodhwa changed her plea as the case was set for trial in July. She also agreed she will be disqualified from food stamps for one year from the time she becomes eligible again. She also must repay $35,278.
When she does become eligible for benefits again, if the judgement isn’t satisfied, she still won’t receive benefits. The benefits could be taken to satisfy the judgment against her, Drago told Boodhwa.
Boodhwa originally faced a 30-count indictment accusing her of repeatedly and intentionally misrepresenting her household composition and financial resources by failing to report the children’s father was living with her and providing financial support. She also was accused of falsifying rental receipts to make it appear she had been paying rent, thereby allowing her to receive $25,079 in food stamps and $10,199 in Medicaid benefits.
Assini also asked for an order of protection for a witness in the case, alleging Boodhwa made a threat through a third party to “get” the witness. Boodhwa’s attorney, Lucas Mihuta, opposed, calling such a move improper.
Drago denied the request, saying prosecutors could file charges to get an order, if they wanted to. The allegations as presented appeared ambiguous, the judge said.
A request made by Mihuta to lower the sentence by a day, to just under a year, also was denied. He said his client has repeatedly said she is a U.S. citizen, but he wanted the 364-day sentence in case she actually was not a citizen because immigration officials are more likely to pursue legal action in cases where the sentence is one year or longer.
Assini opposed the modification, and Drago said she couldn’t change the agreement by herself.