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Shelton woman won’t be prosecuted for stealing public benefits

March 29, 2019

MILFORD — A larceny charge lodged against a Shelton woman accused of stealing more than $100,000 in public benefits will likely be dropped because she paid most of the money back after being caught, a judge decided Friday.

Inspectors from the Chief State’s Attorney’s office charged 48-year-old Natalia Wittmer with first-degree larceny a year ago, saying she bilked taxpayers out of $39,800 in benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program and another $65,128 in Medicaid benefits between 2012 and 2016.

They alleged that Wittmer’s income far exceeded the programs’ guidelines and was inconsistent with the financial paperwork she filed to obtain the benefits.

Wittmer and her husband owned a 2013 Tesla, a 2015 Mercedes Benz Sprint van and rental properties in Shelton and Bridgeport during the time she was receiving public assistance, according to an arrest warrant.

Wittmer was in court Friday after applying for accelerated rehabilitation, a diversionary program that will result in the larceny charge — a Class B felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison — being dismissed if she stays out of trouble for the next two years.

During a four-minute hearing in the case, Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Kevin Shay pegged the total amount stolen at $65,000, without detailing how the figure was calculated.

Wittmer’s lawyer, Samantha Kretzmer, said Wittmer had given had her two cashier’s checks totaling that amount that she would forward to court officials.

After Kretzmer said her client had come up with the $65,000, Shay did not oppose Wittmer’s application for the program.

Kretzmer told Judge Peter Brown that Wittmer deserved another chance.

“She stands before you a mother of five. During this case that’s been pending for a long time, there have not been any new arrests,” she said. “I feel confident that she’s not going to offend in the future.”

Asked if she had anything to say, Wittmer declined.

The judge then granted her application and continued the case to March 29, 2021, when the charge will be dismissed as long as Wittmer does not get arrested or lie again to obtain state benefits.

He even waived a $100 program fee in light of Wittmer coughing up the $65,000.

“Good luck to you,” the judge told Wittmer.

“Thank you so much for giving her a second chance,” Kretzmer said. “She greatly appreciates it.”

Asked outside the courtroom to elaborate on why he didn’t object to Wittmer’s application — and whether Friday’s hearing sent the message that it’s OK to steal $65,000 in public benefits as long as, if caught, a person pays the money back — Shay declined to comment.

ethan.fry@hearstmediact.com