Here’s the thing about government benefits programs – you have to be eligible to receive them. For example, if an application asks you to list the number of people living at an address that are providing you with income (and most of them do), then you list any applicable names. If you don’t truthfully and accurately fill out the form, you’re probably committing fraud. It’s really that simple. And, that was the case in today’s Fraud of the Day from Fox19.com.

The article reports that on multiple occasions between 1999 and 2011, a Kentucky woman failed to “disclose her true living arrangements and financial resources” to the Social Security Administration (SSA). The defendant claimed she was living alone and not receiving any financial assistance. In fact, the opposite was true. During that time, she received financial assistance “from three separate men at different times.” (It really matters what you write on the application. They aren’t asking you those questions for fun.)

Here’s where things become a bit strange. At one point, “she dressed in a costume and pretended to be severely mentally disabled in an attempt to remain eligible for assistance.” (Seriously? I wouldn’t make this up.) When it became clear that the authorities were becoming suspicious, she asked her son to lie to cover up her fraud.

So, how much damage could one woman do? Well, she received a total of $191,931.97 from scamming state and federal assistance programs.

Ultimately, the defendant was convicted of Supplemental Security Income fraud, and received 12 months in prison. (That’s it? 12 months?  What about restitution?) Her son was sentenced to five months in prison, plus five months of home detention for his role in aiding and abetting her fraud. (Gee thanks, Mom. I wanted to spend the next five months in prison – NOT.)

What’s the moral of the story here?  For the son, I’d suggest thinking twice before doing mom any more favors. And, for the government: it may be time to start verifying self-reported information on benefit applications.

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