Out of Sight, Out of the Government’s Mind

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It’s not unheard of for a fraudster to steal funds or benefits from more than one government program at a time. All it takes is a little coordination and consistency across government applications so the bogus information appears real. (They figure that if the same information is on multiple applications, the government will be thrown off their fraud trail.) A Taunton, Massachusetts woman took that approach to committing Social Security Disability fraud and Section 8 fraud. She lied about the residency of her husband and got away with nearly $179,000 in government benefits she did not deserve from two different government agencies.

Eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability, as well as Section 8 housing benefits, is based in part on the applicant having limited income and resources. (The income of an applicant’s spouse, if married and living together, must also be factored into the equation.) The Massachusetts native chose to leave off some very important information about her husband that would have made her ineligible to receive government support.

The Taunton woman began receiving housing assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program in 1999. In 2002, she applied for SSI benefits. On her application, she was truthful in reporting she was married, but falsely stated she did not live with her husband. (She did live with her hubby and her two children as well.) Despite her lie, she began receiving SSI benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). She also lied to HUD, claiming her husband had moved out of her residence. (But, the money kept on coming in.)

Every year for nearly two decades, the deceptive woman was required to report any changes in her household composition, including household members or income earned. She received annual reminders from the SSA, but she chose to conceal the living arrangements of her husband, plus the fact that he was gainfully employed. (She kept on omitting her husband from the application. She was hoping that out of sight meant out of the government’s mind.)

The fraudster didn’t count on the government being so mindful of her deceit. The 41-year-old pleaded guilty to Supplemental Security Income fraud and Section 8 Housing fraud. She was sentenced to four months in prison, three years of supervised release (the first three months are to be served in home confinement), and she has to pay restitution of $178,722. (She received $70,655 in disability benefits and $108,067 in Section 8 housing assistance benefits.)

Today’s fraudster repeatedly omitted her husband from the government’s recertification questionnaires. While she had hoped that her husband would be out of sight and out of mind, this woman’s name is now on the top of the government’s mind. This criminal will no longer be able to conceal her deception, nor collect government funds she does not deserve.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on a press release from the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General entitled, “Massachusetts Woman Sentenced for Social Security Disability and Housing Assistance Fraud,” released on October 20, 2017.

BOSTON – A Taunton woman was sentenced today in federal court in Boston for concealing information and making false statements in order to receive Social Security disability benefits and Section 8 housing assistance to which she was not entitled.

Marisha Ebanks, 41, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs to four months in prison, three years of supervised release, with the first three months to be served in home confinement, and ordered to pay restitution of $178,722. In June 2017, Ebanks pleaded guilty to one count of Supplemental Security Income fraud and one count of making false statements.

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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.