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There are many reasons why people commit fraud. Some are focused only on themselves and think they are entitled to things or benefits they do not deserve. Others are under intense pressure to pay the bills and make ends meet. A woman from Greene County, Pennsylvania fits both of those categories. She committed Social Security disability fraud when she stole more than $115,000 to help fund her mounting healthcare bills.

The Pennsylvanian from Cumberland Township, who unlawfully collected the supplemental benefits, hid her ruse for nearly two decades by falsely claiming her husband had left her and no longer financially supported her. She originally applied for Social Security disability benefits in July 1999 by making a series of false statements about the whereabouts of her husband. She said he did not live under the same roof. (It turns out that he was there all along. Perhaps he was hiding out in his man cave.)

In addition to living in the same house as his wife, he also paid the bills, supporting her financially through a joint checking account. (Court documents showed that they had lived together since 1996, except for a short absence in 2014.) In 2001 and 2002, the woman boldly claimed that her “purportedly absent” husband was charging her $200 per month in rent. (The Social Security Administration believed her and increased her benefits. Did no one check to verify her claim?)

The article states that the woman committed the egregious fraud because she had significant medical issues that left her financially strapped. Court documents revealed that she needed to “secure important health treatments” for undisclosed illnesses. (Here’s the thing – many people with limited income and no one to financially support them are confronted with major medical expenses, but most of them don’t commit fraud to pay the bills.) The fact is that she didn’t just keep silent while receiving the benefits, she actually applied to receive benefits that she was not entitled to receive. (She actively sought to defraud the government program.)

The 62-year-old Greene County woman pleaded guilty to committing Social Security disability fraud by illegally collecting $115,597 in supplemental benefits she did not deserve. Prosecutors argued that the deceptive woman should be sentenced to prison, but due to her medical issues, she was sentenced to one year of house arrest to be followed by four years of probation.

While the government funds programs that help vulnerable people with legitimate needs, it is not responsible for helping criminals pay their bills. It’s a good guess that this woman’s relationship may truly be strained now that her crime has been exposed. Her husband will now have to bear the financial burden of her medical issues, which may cause him to retreat to his man cave, leaving her home almost alone.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Greene County woman sentenced for receiving fraudulent disability benefits,” published by Observer-Reporter on November 8, 2018.

A Greene County woman who pleaded guilty to illegally receiving more than $115,000 in Social Security disability payments for nearly two decades was sentenced in federal court Wednesday and will serve a year of house arrest.

Cindy Hancheck must also repay the $115,597 in supplemental benefits she fraudulently received and will spend four years on probation under the sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge David Cercone in federal court in Pittsburgh.

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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.