The Insanity of It All


When a criminal defendant uses an insanity plea, it means they declare they did not understand they were doing something wrong while committing a crime. (That’s my non-legal definition.) A Department of Justice press release tells about a woman who claimed an insanity defense regarding a 17-year stint of receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) she did not deserve.

SSI is a federal income supplement program designed to provide assistance for aged, blind and disabled people with little or no income. The program provides financial assistance to meet basic needs including food, clothing and shelter. According to the press release, the female defendant lied to the Social Security Administration (SSA) about her living arrangements to fraudulently collect SSI and Medicaid benefits. (She repeatedly told officials over 17 years that she was separated from her husband and not sharing living expenses. In reality, she was living with him and receiving financial support.)

The 57-year-old woman, who claimed an insanity defense at trial, and her husband were both convicted by jury on one count of making a false statement. Their scheme allowed the wife to collect more than $280,000 in benefits from the SSA and the Kentucky Medicaid program. The charges carry a maximum of five years in prison.

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. If that is true, then this couple may qualify. Their repeated illegal actions finally resulted in a different result – prosecution and penalties for defrauding the government instead of a consistent income of benefits they don’t deserve.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on a press release titled, ”Boyd County Woman Convicted of Defrauding Social Security Administration Out of $280,000,” issued by the Department of Justice on July 31, 2015.

Tamira Fonville’s job might be described as ”recruiter.” For a time, she profited substantially by enlisting college-age women to participate in a hair show. The problem was, there never was any show, and everything about Fonville’s line of work was a fraud.

She and her partner—both of whom are now in prison—regularly traveled the Interstate 95 corridor from New York to Washington, D.C., visiting shopping malls and other places where young women were known to spend time.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.