Fresno social services worker heads to prison

FRESNO, Calif.

Action News broke the story of Michael Martin's crimes last September. We obtained documents accusing him of illegally processing and approving more than $40,000 worth of fraudulent benefits.

Martin asked to delay his sentencing Wednesday and a judge was going to let him. But when she decided he should wait in jail, he changed his mind and took his punishment.

Martin has been out of custody for the last five months even after admitting to felony charges connected with a large welfare fraud investigation. The former Social Services worker stood before a judge Wednesday, hoping to stay free a little while longer by delaying his sentencing. But when the judge decided his days of freedom should end, he had a sudden change of heart.

"In light of that, I'd rather go for sentencing today," Martin told his attorney.

Minutes later, the judge sentenced martin to three years in prison.

Documents uncovered by Action News show he's accused of issuing almost $40,000 in food stamp benefits to 24 members of the 2010 Fresno State football team, and two other college athletes. He's also accused of approving benefits for family members, including his wife, Dawn Griffin, who was also sentenced to jail time Wednesday.

Martin has never been charged for allegedly giving illegal benefits to athletes. But he resigned his position and admitted to embezzlement, identity theft, and possession of heroin. His attorney said martin knew he'd made a mistake.

"He admitted his wrongdoing early," said defense attorney Ruthanne Edginton. "There was an expression of remorsefulness by him and he would like to assert before the court that this was an aberration in his behavior."

Martin has a previous drug conviction, so the judge had to send him to state prison, and she sent him with one final thought on his crime.

"You were there to assist others who needed help within the Department of Social Services," said Judge Houry Sanderson. "You were helping yourself."

Legislators tell Action News state law allows county workers to keep their retirement benefits, even if they're accused of embezzling. County retirement officials say they will follow state law in this case, so Martin could still be getting money from Fresno County for years to come.

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