Not Above the Law

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Elderly grandmother in wheelchair with an adult granddaughter outside in spring nature.

Even beauty queens and media commentators are not spared the penalty for defrauding government programs. Karyn Turk, a media commentator and former Mrs. Florida 2016, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of Social Security fraud and was sentenced by a U.S. magistrate in Florida to a month in prison, followed by five months of house arrest, and then 100 hours of community service in a nursing home. (What if the residents don’t want her?)

Turk is appealing the decision, saying there is more to her story and that she has suffered enough from negative media attention, which has impacted her career. Her livelihood is based on her ability to network and keep a positive online following, her attorney said. (She is right to worry about her online persona as it appears that her beauty may only be skin deep.)

The judge rejected Turk’s offer of a check for $46,000 to reimburse the government, saying she could not “buy her way out of jail.” He said her high-profile status was right for sending the message “that you can’t steal from the government and not go to jail.”

Turk, 47, of Highland Beach, is accused of stealing her mother’s Social Security, Veterans Administration and pension checks and leading a lavish lifestyle, rather than paying $219,000 in nursing home bills. (Her mother suffered from Alzheimer’s and died at a nursing home last summer at 83.)

The nonprofit nursing home is suing Turk for her mother’s expenses that officials testified they’d been trying to collect for three years. This included a 2018 judge’s order of a $250 per month payment plan and to buy clothes for her mother, neither of which she followed (but sounds perfectly reasonable), according to testimony. Turk is counter-suing the nursing home, saying its negligence contributed to her mother’s death. (We look forward to hearing her side.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from the articles, “Former Mrs. Florida gets prison time for Social Security fraud,” published by ABC News on Jan. 11, 2020, and “Conservative commentator headed to prison for stealing elderly mom’s Social Security,” published in the Columbus (OH) Dispatch on Jan. 12, 2020.

A former beauty queen was sentenced to one month in prison over Social Security fraud involving checks issued to her mother.

Karyn Turk, winner of the 2016 Mrs. Florida pageant, was accused of stealing her mom’s checks instead of sending the funds to a nursing home where her mother lived as she suffered from Alzheimer’s, according to prosecutors.

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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.