Tangled Web Unravels

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Social Security cards with cash and benefit amount numbers

A Montana woman parlayed 17 years of deception into more than $325K of government benefits she was not entitled to. This included nearly $196K in fraudulent Medicaid benefits.

Tanya Smith began receiving government benefits in 1987, and then married in 2002—which made her ineligible for them. But she found a convenient workaround: From 2002 until 2019, Smith simply lied to the Social Security Administration (SSA) about her living situation, marital status, and income in order to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) of more than $130K, in addition to the Medicaid benefits she no longer qualified for.

SSI is designed to help people who are elderly or disabled and have little to no income, while Medicaid helps with healthcare costs for some people with limited income and resources. (People in actual need, who meet the income criteria, as opposed to scammers.)

In 2004, Smith corrected her living information with the SSA, but two months later claimed to have separated from her husband and resumed receiving benefits. She maintained the lie for the next 15 years. (Points for consistency, one supposes, given how hard it is for most liars to keep their stories straight.)

In 2020, Smith was arraigned in Billings, Mont., on charges of theft of government property, false statements to a government agency, and Social Security fraud-concealment. She faced up to 10 years in prison, a $250K fine, and three years of supervised release. After Smith admitted to lying, and plead guilty to theft of government property, she was sentenced in March 2021 to three years of probation and restitution of $325,870.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana, “Laurel woman sentenced for lying to get Social Security Administration benefits” dated March 25, 2021.

BILLINGS – A Laurel woman who admitted lying to receive federal benefits to which she was not entitled was sentenced today to three years of probation and ordered to pay $325,870 restitution, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson said.

Tanya Smith, 45, pleaded guilty on Oct. 1, 2020 to theft of government property.

Additional information is available in a Laurel Outlook story, “Laurel woman arraigned,” dated September 3, 2020.

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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.