By Associated Press - Tuesday, April 6, 2021

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) - A Massachusetts woman who pleaded guilty to stealing more than $90,000 in federal benefits by concealing her marriage for nearly a decade has been placed on two years of probation and ordered to pay restitution.

Rhonda Bernal, 62, of Fitchburg was sentenced Monday during a video hearing in U.S. District Court in Worcester, The Telegram & Gazette reported.

Bernal admitted in December to deceiving the government about her marriage for eight years while accepting federal benefits.

She stole more than $71,000 in Social Security benefits, more than $6,000 in MassHealth insurance benefits and about $13,500 in food stamps benefits, federal prosecutors said.

Bernal‘s attorney said while his client accepts responsibility for her actions, she was spurred by a lifetime of abuse, first as a child and then as an adult by an abusive and manipulative husband who ordered her to conceal her marriage, and thus his income, from the government.

She has no prior criminal record and has since divorced.

Her sentence includes one month of home confinement.

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