GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ) - An illegal immigrant was convicted Monday of public assistance fraud in Green Bay.
Graciela Antonio illegally received $25,416 in taxpayer-funded public assistance for food and medical bills over three years. According to court documents, the 29-year-old Antonio, who lived in Green Bay, has three children.
“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,” Zuidmulder said, according to FOX 11. “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.