Blind grandmother faces prison for $3,700 fraud from 1981

Shop For The HomeDorothy Rembert shuffled in front of a judge Thursday with the help of a walker, her daughter and one of her seven grandchildren to answer to a 29-year-old crime she believed was resolved.

“I thought it was all over with,” Rembert said. “Nobody came after me or anything.”

Her probation violation is one of the oldest on the books in Hamilton County.

Rembert, now 61, was convicted in 1981 of theft for receiving $3,700 in welfare benefits while she also was working. She was placed on probation by then-Common Pleas Court Judge William S. Mathews and ordered to repay $3,700.

Engaged at the time to Charles Kisitu, Rembert said he vowed to pay the debt because they got married soon after she was placed on probation.

“He promised me he was going to pay all the bills,” Rembert said. “He said, I’m going to pay all this debt off.’ My husband said he paid it.”

So, she went about her life, believing the debt was paid as was her debt to society. Until, that is, she applied in March for her Social Security retirement benefits. That’s when officials told her the three-decades-old case was very much alive.

“He didn’t pay it. He didn’t,” the Mount Auburn grandmother said of her husband. Then he died without telling her the debt remained.

Of the original $3,700 debt, Rembert said $695 was paid.

“The police came here to arrest me,” she said from the Mount Auburn apartment she shares with her daughter.

When they saw she had many medical issues – “I’m blind in one eye and can barely see out of the other,” Rembert said, holding her walker – they instead gave her a court date to appear Thursday before Common Pleas Court Judge Jody Luebbers.

Rembert is confused how the debt could remain unpaid for decades and no one from the government contacted her about it.

“How did all this slide through?” she asked. “I don’t understand it. I thought it was all over with.”

The scariest part for Rembert is the charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 18 months. Her lawyer, Michael Tranter, is trying to persuade the judge to allow the case to be resolved with a civil restitution order.

“It’s essentially a contract,” said Tranter, who was 6 years old when Rembert first was charged in the case.

In exchange for the criminal charges being dismissed, Rembert must agree to make payments on the outstanding debt.

Now on food stamps, she is awaiting her first Social Security retirement check, the income she hopes to use to repay the $3,000 the government says she still owes.

“If that’s what I have to do, that’s what I’ll do,” she said.

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