Lady Luck

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26630523 - closeup of social security cards and money

I hate to break it to you, but you have a much better chance of being struck by lightning than winning the lottery or the jackpot on a poker machine. (Despite this depressing news, hopeful people flock to the grocery store or local mini mart daily to buy a chance at winning millions. They also visit casinos where there are no clocks on the wall and patrons lose track of time while frittering away their life savings.) Such is the case of a woman from Haines City, Florida who used the government’s money to win more than $129,000 at a Tampa casino. She committed Social Security fraud by not reporting her gambling earnings, which would have made her ineligible to receive government benefits from multiple programs.

The Haines City woman, who was the representative payee for her five minor children, received Supplement Security Income (SSI) benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). She also received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid benefits from the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF).

Lady Luck was not only with today’s fraudster once in 2010 when she won $20,568.78 at a Tampa casino, but again in 2011 when she won an additional $108,776.90 at the same gambling facility. (The woman ran into trouble when she neglected to inform the SSA and DCF of her six-figure winnings.)

The additional income earned from gambling at the casino increased the woman’s available resources. If income increases while an individual is receiving government benefits, then their total amount of benefits received will be reduced. (This is why many people don’t report any additional income.) In today’s case, the multiple federal and state programs paid her $100,000 in SSI, SNAP and Medicaid benefits she would not have qualified for.

Unfortunately, the 48-year-old mother of five from Haines City ran out of luck. She pleaded guilty to Social Security fraud and was sentenced to one year and three months in federal prison for theft of government funds. She must also pay a money judgement of $117,234.40.

Casino gaming revenues in the U.S. are expected to reach $2 billion in 2018. (Gambling is big business and the lure of free rooms, drinks and food are enticing to those who are down on their luck, jobless, lonely, or just want to escape from their daily realities.) The distance between Haines City and Tampa is about an hour. There’s no telling how much time this mother spent at the casino, but one thing’s for sure – she gambled with her children’s futures by trekking to Tampa and violating the government’s rules for receiving government benefits. (With any luck, she’ll realize her mistake and leaving her gambling habit behind.)

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on a Department of Justice press release entitled, Tampa Woman Sentenced To Prison for Social Security Fraud,” released on April 23, 2018.

Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich has sentenced Arritta Spence (48, Haines City) to one year and three months in federal prison for theft of government funds. As part of her sentence, the court also entered a money judgment of $117,234.40, the proceeds of the offense. Spence pleaded guilty on December 4, 2017.

According to court documents, Spence received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and served as the representative payee for five of her minor children. In addition, she also received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid benefits through the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF).

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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.