Throughout life we all encounter difficult situations that require a certain amount of time to cope with said situation. People find many different coping mechanisms. Some prefer physical activity, such as walking/running, some prefer to talk to someone such as a therapist and others prefer to defraud taxpayers. According to a SC Now article, one South Carolina woman found solace in fraud following her mother’s death – until she was caught.

When the Social Security Administration (SSA) discovered they were paying Social Security benefits to a woman who had passed away in 2010, they immediately took action. An investigation began in August 2012 after an SSA employee noticed $23,873 had been paid since May 31, 2010, to a woman who had was deceased. Even more strange, the checks had been cashed throughout that time, signed by the allegedly deceased woman. (This isn’t one of those ”I see dead fraudsters” kind of claim, is it?) Shockingly, the woman was not rising from the grave to cash her checks. Instead, her daughter was keeping the benefits for herself.

The daughter pleaded guilty to theft of government funds in relation to stealing her deceased mother’s SSA benefits. (I’m sorry, but it’s not a ”if you don’t use it, you lose it” situation; it’s a ”if you die, you lose it” kind of thing.) According to evidence presented at the plea hearing, the woman lived with her mother, who had been receiving Social Security benefits. After her mother’s death, she neglected to notify the SSA about the passing, and she continued to cash the SSA benefit checks by signing her mother’s name. The judge explained the fraudster faces a maximum penalty of $250,000 in fines or up to 10 years in prison, plus a special assessment of $100.

That sure is an interesting coping mechanism – defrauding the U.S. government to relieve the pain. Although an extra $20,000 is always a nice little pick-me-up. However, I wouldn’t recommend fraud as a beneficial coping mechanism, unless of course, you’re looking to spend a little personal time in jail.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Dillon Woman Pleads Guilty to Social Security Fraud,” published by SC Now on June 5, 2013.

COLUMBIA, S.C. –A Dillon woman pleaded guilty in federal court in Florence to theft of government funds, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641, according to a press release from United States Attorney Bill Nettles on Wednesday.

United States District Judge R. Bryan Harwell of Florence accepted the plea from Emma Bowens, 62, and will impose sentence after he has reviewed the presentence report that will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.