Pennsylvania Woman Charged with Social Security Disability Fraud

Date: 
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Office Affiliation: 

Article from Lancaster Online here.

A Lititz woman has been indicted on charges that she fraudulently received $137,665 in Social Security benefits for the last 15 years.

She then threatened a government employee after the funds were cut off.

Debra Lightfoot, 57, of 207 Audrey Drive, is facing charges that include fraud, identity theft and threats, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger of the U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District, in Philadelphia, announced Thursday.

She was arrested Oct. 7 and is being detained pending trial.

Officials said Lightfoot applied and was approved for disability benefits in July 1989. In filing for the benefits, she alleged she was unable to work because she was disabled.

But Lightfoot apparently was able to work, albeit under the guise of someone else's identity.

Since at least October 1998, officials said, Lightfoot has secured employment using another person's name and Social Security number.

As recently as January 2012, she obtained a job at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, New York, continuing to live in Lititz — in a home she purchased in 2006 — while working there, according to investigators.

Prosecutors said Lightfoot failed to report her job and continued collecting benefits until May of this year.

When officials discovered the scam and discontinued her benefits, Lightfoot phoned the Social Security office and threatened a worker there.

"This is exactly why people go postal," she said. "And if you want to construe that as a threat you can."

It was unclear how officials learned of Lightfoot's activities.

In total, she is charged with 11 counts of wire fraud, two counts of Social Security fraud, and one count each of aggravated identity theft, theft of government funds, transmitting a threat by interstate communications and assaulting, resisting, opposing, impeding, intimidating or interfering with a government employee in the course of official duties.

If convicted, Lightfoot faces a maximum possible sentence of 248 years imprisonment, three years supervised release, restitution to the government of $137,665 and a $1,625 special assessment.

The case was investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General and is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda R. Reinitz.