Shopping Your Way to The Slammer


It’s a bit of a stretch to frame a shopping spree, funded with stolen money, as a blessing from God. The Oregonian reports that, shortly after a Portland woman was instructed to pay back more than $71,000 she stole from the government, she published a series of social media posts detailing another shopping trip, in which she said, ”I went to the mall to get a pair of shoes and God has blessed me with 2 pair of shoes.” (Hallelujah!)

It all began when the woman applied to become a home care worker for her disabled father, who is confined to a wheelchair. On the basis of her previous convictions for heroin possession, theft and forgery, the Oregon Department of Human Services denied her application. (That sounds about right.) So once her daughter turned eighteen, her mother applied for her to be the home care worker, even though she had only met her grandfather a handful of times, during a childhood that she spent mostly in foster care. Once the daughter’s application was approved and she began receiving related public benefits, her mother forced her to sign them over to her or forged the daughter’s signature. Sometimes the mother would give her daughter a few hundred dollars out of the $2,158 per month she was stealing. (”Thank you, Mommie Dearest”)

But the grandfather’s needs remained neglected, despite money provided by the government specifically for his care. According to authorities, he often received only two meals a day, and that’s only if you’re counting leftover fast food as a ”meal.”

Before long, the woman claimed another $1,000 per month from the state, on the basis that she, herself, suffered from disabilities requiring a ”personal support worker,” another role she claimed her daughter would play. Of course, the mother pocketed the funds, along with another $700 per month she fraudulently collected from the Social Security Administration by misrepresenting her assets.

Perhaps most shocking is that this woman evidenced her crime spree in more than 50 ”selfies” that she posted on social media, including photos of her ”posing with $100 bills” and ”diamond rings on almost every finger.” (Can we call those ”selfishies”?)

Well, she got caught. Given subsequent statements she made on record, it shouldn’t be surprising that she failed to take responsibility for her crimes, and instead pleaded no contest to making a false claim for a health care payment and first-degree theft by deception. One statement justifying a pair of boots purchased ”for only $47” was further inflamed by her assertion that she would have been ”selling drugs” if she truly was pursuing a lavish lifestyle, as well as her claim that she spent most of the stolen funds on family members, including her father, whom she attempted to frame as a lonely, disabled old man with a gambling problem. (Perhaps this is why the judge denied her request to avoid prison.)

Ultimately, she was sentenced to one year and eight months in prison (no Facebook!), followed by five years of probation, and ordered to pay back the $71,774 she stole from the government. If she doesn’t, the judge warned, she could face even more time behind bars. Additionally, her daughter was sentenced to probation after she pleaded guilty to felony making a false claim for a health care payment and first-degree theft.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on, ”Thief who spent money to look good sentenced for defrauding government of $71,000,” written by Aimee Green and published by The Oregonian on March 14, 2016.

Days after a 52-year-old Portland woman admitted there was enough evidence to convict her of defrauding the government, Sheila Yvette Massey couldn’t stop posting details of her latest trips to the mall or a nail salon on her Facebook page.

That’s even though, authorities say, Massey knew she was on the hook for paying back more than $71,000 she wrongfully collected from the government.

At Massey’s sentencing hearing Monday, Multnomah County Circuit Judge Christopher Marshall denied Massey’s request to avoid prison by sentencing her to one year and eight months at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville.

Prosecutor Jodie Bureta told the judge that Massey has shown a complete lack of remorse. Bureta wrote in a memo to the judge that Massey has had “diamond rings on almost every finger” and posted photos of herself “posing with $100 dollar bills fanned out on her chest.”

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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.