PORTLAND — A judge sentenced a Durham woman Wednesday to three years of probation for defrauding the Social Security Administration.

U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock said he “reluctantly” imposed the sentence without prison time, noting he was concerned that it may not deter other would-be thieves from seeking to steal money from the federal government agency.

Carol J. Bourgoin, 65, was ordered by the judge to repay the Social Security Administration the more than $80,000 she was paid illegally over roughly nine years period from 2009 to 2018.

Bourgoin appeared for sentencing Wednesday via videoconference from her Davis Road home in Durham where she is caring for her ailing husband, her attorney, Daphne Hallett Donahue, said.

Donahue said her client also is ailing. She suffers from anxiety, depression and PTSD from an abusive father during her upbringing.

Bourgoin earned a bachelor’s degree in science from University of Southern Maine in social work and was employed at Maine Department of Heath and Human Services.

Because she accepted responsibility for her criminal conduct and agreed to remote sentencing, her exposure for time behind bars was reduced to between zero and six months in prison.

The prosecutor and Donahue recommended Bourgoin serve only probation.

She pleaded guilty in June to a felony charge of Social Security Supplemental Income benefit fraud due to concealment, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

Woodcock said he wasn’t concerned about Bourgoin repeating her crime, but did worry about the message her sentence might send to the greater public.

“I think she has learned her lesson,“ he said.

If the price for stealing $80,430 in government funds is simply to repay it, the benefit might appear to be worth the risk, he said.

Bourgoin, who had no prior criminal record, stopped stealing and admitted to her crime only after she was caught, he said.

“The government has to rely on the good faith and honesty of the American people” not to commit similar criminal conduct, Woodcock said.

Bourgoin told the judge Wednesday: “I have made a huge mistake for which I am terribly sorry. I would never, ever do anything like this again.”

Had the case gone to trial, prosecutors said in court papers they would have shown Bourgoin collected Supplemental Security Income benefits due to a disability as of October 2004.

In applying for benefits, Bourgoin represented that, while she was married, she no longer lived with her husband and she did not receive any support from any person not living with her.

In July 2009, she and her husband reunited, and he moved back into her household, but she didn’t report that to Social Security.

When she applied for benefits, she was informed of her reporting responsibilities and was also reminded of her reporting requirements in continuing eligibility reviews in 2011, 2013 and 2018.

Bourgoin knew she was required to report the people living with her, her income and resources, as well as any changes in her living circumstances to the agency.

She didn’t let them know of her husband’s presence in her home and the support she received from him, despite knowing that she was required to do so, prosecutors said.

In reviews of her eligibility conducted in 2011 and 2013, Bourgoin indicated she lived alone and received no assistance from anyone, and that she had lived with her son since Aug. 3, 2010.

She repeated these representations in a review conducted in 2018, and further indicated that she had lived alone since May 2, 2011, receiving no financial assistance from anyone.

In fact, she knew that her husband had resumed living with her since at least July 1, 2009, and received sufficient income to affect her eligibility for benefits, prosecutors said.

Bourgoin made these false representations so that she could obtain benefits to which she was not entitled, or receive benefits in a greater amount than she was due, prosecutors said.

She and her husband jointly own the primary residence in Durham they each identified to the agency as their address of record. They were also joint holders for a savings account into which Bourgoin’s SSI benefits were deposited, as well as another account into which her husband’s SSDI benefit payments and his pension payments were deposited, according to court papers.

Bourgoin did not disclose that she was listed as a co-owner of the account into which her husband’s income was deposited.

On Oct. 15, 2018, federal case agents interviewed Bourgoin. She told them she and her husband had separated when she stopped working due to medical issues. She said they reunited on July 1, 2009, and resumed living together as of that date, and have ever since.

She acknowledged that she should have reported the change in her household to the agency, but didn’t because she knew she would lose her benefits if she did.

Bourgoin signed a sworn statement acknowledging she and her husband reunited on July 1, 2009, and since that time, have shared all expenses related to their home, their vehicles, and household expenses, and further, that they shared a bank account into which her husband’s SSDI and pension were deposited. She admitted to knowing that she was supposed to notify SSA that she and her husband were living together and sharing expenses, and acknowledged that she would have to repay the benefits she improperly received.

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