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No Defense for Ignorance

Senior Director of Strategic Alliances
LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

There is a saying that ignorance of the law is no excuse for committing a crime. A grandmother from Massachusetts will soon find out how that defense holds up in court. She faces 10 years in prison for committing Social Security fraud.

Shirley Daley, of Shirley, Mass., pleaded guilty to unlawfully collecting more than $319,000 in Social Security benefits over a dozen years.

The 84-year-old woman said she immigrated to the United States from Honduras in the late 1960s and obtained a Social Security number. She was married shortly thereafter and obtained a different Social Security number under her married name. (First of all, that’s not how Social Security works. An individual receives one Social Security number for life. If your name changes, you must report that to Social Security to update your card. Secondly, it begs the question of how she obtained the numbers.)

In 2005, at age 70, the registered nurse started receiving Social Security benefits for herself through one number and for her late husband through the second number. She received the benefits (about $2,200 per month) for 12 years before she was charged with stealing from the federal program.

Daley says she didn’t think she did anything wrong. “This is money I worked for and my husband worked for and they took it out of our pay,” she said. (It’s easy to see where she’s coming from, but the law is the law.)

Daley said her court-appointed attorney convinced her to plead guilty to avoid jail time. She is scheduled to be sentenced on May 6. (Regardless of the outcome, the moral of this story is that Social Security fraud is taken very seriously. She was old enough to know better.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from the article, “84-Year-Old Mass. Woman Pleads Guilty to Stealing Social Security Benefits,” published Jan. 23, 2020 on nbcboston.com.

A Massachusetts grandmother is facing up to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to stealing Social Security benefits, but Shirley Daley claims she didn’t know the money belonged to the government.

Daley, of Shirley, who has six children and 12 grandchildren, says, “They want to punish you. They don’t want to get to the bottom of how this happened.”

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