At Darron Suggs' sentencing hearing this week, his defense attorney argued that no one would think that giving Suggs probation was letting him get away with anything. Really? It looks to us like he got away with a whole lot.
Suggs stole more than $64,000 from the federally funded Medicaid program by falsely claiming he was providing care for his mother and another person. He faced up to 10 years in prison; the magistrate who accepted his plea said probation wouldn't be an option. But Suggs won't serve any prison time; federal Judge David Herndon gave him probation. He stole the money over six years, but the judge gave him 26 years to repay it.
No wonder Suggs was smiling on his way out of court.
It's disappointing that Herndon didn't sentence Suggs to some time in prison -- prosecutors wanted six months -- to show the seriousness of the crime in general and in this case in particular. Suggs was a St. Clair County probation officer and Washington Park trustee and obviously knew better, which makes his despicable crime all the worse. He was another public servant helping himself to more.
As Herndon pointed out, Medicaid fraud is increasing. The government has limited resources to track and prosecute scammers like Suggs, so it's important that when someone is caught and convicted, the sentence has teeth.
Unfortunately, Suggs' sentence is toothless. It sends the message that stealing from the taxpayers is no big deal.