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Go Big or Go Home

Senior Director of Strategic Alliances
LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Go big or go home. That’s what Ella Mae Woods did before she pled guilty to Social Security fraud on May 17, 2024. It is believed that Wood’s orchestrated one of the largest Social Security fraud cases seen in the state of Vermont in years. Wood’s mother, Jeannette Styles, was living in Brattleboro when she died in 1994. At the time of her death, Styles had been receiving $679 a month in Social Security payments. Not one to let the loss of a mother get in the way of fraud, Woods continued to collect on her dead mother’s S.S. benefits for her own personal use until the unreported death was uncovered in 2022. No explanation yet as to why it took the Social Security Administration so many years to learn of Styles’ death.

By the time the fraud was uncovered, Woods was diverting payments of $1,280 a month. Woods collected more than $325,000 over twenty-eight years. Woods managed to fly under the radar after the death of her mother by forging the dead woman’s signature and creating joint accounts. One of which she provided to the Social Security Administration so that the agency could direct deposit her mother’s checks. Those checks were all collected by Woods, who used them for her own benefit and enjoyment.
Woods will remain in federal custody pending her sentencing in August 2024. Apparently, Woods has had a history of missing court hearings and disappearing, officials have said. Meaning she is regularly on the run. Hearing that a criminal investigation into her mother’s death was underway, Woods had high tailed it out of Vermont. After an arrest warrant was issued in October 2022 Woods remained on the run until she was finally arrested in Waterloo, Iowa on July 6, 2023. Woods was ordered to return to Vermont where she was released. However, she was arrested again after she failed to appear for her next court hearing.

Sentencing is scheduled for August 19, 2024. Excellent job by the police departments who keep re-arresting her.

Today’s Fraud of The Day is based on article “Former Brattleboro woman pleads guilty in $325,000 wire fraud with dead mom’s SSI” published by The Brattleboro Reformer on May 19, 2024.
The 75-year-old daughter of a Brattleboro woman who died in 1994 pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court on Friday afternoon to wire fraud to steal more than $325,000 in social security benefits earmarked for her mother.

Ella Mae Woods is facing about 18 to 24 months in federal prison under a preliminary review of the federal sentencing guidelines, Chief Federal Defender Michael Desautels said in court.

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