Brenda Charlestain: Food stamp fraud convict had plastic surgery and souped-up car, prosecutors say

During the time that Brenda Charlestain committed nearly $24,000 worth of food stamp fraud, prosecutors said she spent money on plastic surgery, an expensive car stereo system and a bright pink custom paint job for her 2008 Dodge Charger.

Brenda Charlestain testified Thursday that the $9,187 worth of cosmetic enhancements, the $1,100 sound system and the other splurges were all gifts from men she met working as a dancer at adult entertainment clubs in West Palm Beach and Miami.

Charlestain, 28, of Greenacres, claimed she was homeless and out of work when she applied for food stamps to feed herself and her five children, prosecutors said. She received $900 to $1,100 worth of aid per month between March 2010 and June 2012, court records show.

She later admitted that during some of that time she made more than $85,000 a year working only for tips. She also paid more than $1,200 in monthly rent payments and $326 a month in car payments.

Earlier this year, Charlestain pleaded guilty to federal charges of food stamp fraud and providing a firearm to a convicted felon her husband Josny Charlestain.

On Thursday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, U.S. District Judge William Zloch sentenced Brenda Charlestain to 1 1/2 years in federal prison. She has to surrender by Nov. 30 and must eventually repay the $23,965 worth of food stamps she received.

Josny Charlestain, also 28, pleaded guilty to weapons charges and faces a lengthy prison term when he is sentenced next month. Prosecutors said in court that the convicted drug dealer and burglar was the main suspect in a 2009 homicide in Palm Beach County but the case was dropped when witnesses stopped cooperating.

Prosecutors said Brenda Charlestain's purchase of firearms for her husband, who was banned from having them, were particularly dangerous because he was involved in a dispute with other criminals.

Prosecutors told the judge that most straw buyers who purchase guns for felons are naive young women who know nothing about a boyfriend's criminal past. But they said Charlestain was different because she knew exactly what he'd done.

Court records show she sent at least one text to her husband that said "Give me b[ac]k my gun, it's under my name ... don't trust u killer."

Charlestain apologized profusely to the judge and begged him to place her on house arrest. She said she overcame many obstacles — including the death of her father when she was 10 and her first pregnancy when she was 14 — and became a paralegal.

She lost a job with a law firm earlier this week because of the criminal case against her, she testified, but got a new job within two days, working as a receptionist at a medical office.


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