ATHENS – A 10-year jail sentence for a kindergarten cleaning lady who forged a certificate to say she had gone as far as the sixth grade has set off a furor in Greece as other higher-ranking workers who did the same weren’t being prosecuted or even fired in some cases.
The 53-year-old woman, who wasn’t identified, presented the false certificate in 1996 and is being punished 22 years later. She had worked for the city of Volos from 1996-2014 but after the forgery was discovered, she got the jail term from an Appeals Court.
Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, who immediately rehired a group of cleaning ladies who had been protesting outside the Foreign Ministry when he came to power in 2015 has said nothing about the jailing of the woman so far.
The woman gone as far as the fifth grade, a year shy of the education needed to be hired for her position, for which she was the sole provider for her family as her husband is disabled, media reports said.
An earlier court ruling had handed down a 15-year sentence on a conviction based on an early 1950s-era law of “felonious embezzlement against the state,” which is a common occurrence in Greece but for which she was apparently the only one going to jail.
The ruling stems from laws that salaries and social security contributions paid for her by the Volos municipality exceeded 120,000 euros ($136,375) – a felony. The appeals court ignored that she had worked to earn her salary, unlike some in Greek governments.
Feeling the heat, a Supreme Court prosecutor requested the appeals court’s written ruling to possibly overturn it in some fashion, said the business newspaper Naftemporiki.
Political parties and unions also denounced the punishment that was initially as harsh as the 15-year sentence given to a Serbian convicted of the fatal assault of an American tourist on the island of Zakynthos in July, 2017.
Other media reports said while she was convicted that in a similar case a court worker was acquitted of forging a law degree, accepting the defendant’s argument that she filed the forged documentation because she felt “inferior to colleagues who had a law degree”.
An alleged crackdown began in 2013 trying to track down people who had forged degrees and certificates reportedly turned up even doctors who faked their credentials to get jobs as well as alleged lawyers in public offices but those convicted were given suspending sentences and allowed to pay them off instead of going to jail, not granted to the cleaning lady.
Greeks can easily obtain faked certificates, degree and diplomas by paying for them as well as to get disability benefits without any reports of anyone being prosecuted while the cleaning lady is still jailed.