Oregon Caregiver Pleads Guilty to Social Security Fraud

Date: 
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Office Affiliation: 

A caregiver who concealed the death of an elderly man in her care by burying his body, has pleaded guilty to the theft of more than $200,000 in Social Security retirement benefits paid on his behalf.  Carel June Cody, 47, of Cottage Grove, pleaded guilty in federal court this morning to bank fraud, theft of government funds, and aggravated identity theft.  Cody admitted stealing the benefits since 1996, forging the man’s signature on checks payable to herself, and lying to a federal agent to conceal the man’s death.  Cody has remained in custody since her arrest in May 2012.  Sentencing is scheduled for July 29, 2013, at 9:00 a.m.

According to documents filed by the government, Cody was the caregiver for John Arnold when he died sometime between 1994 and 1996.  Instead of alerting authorities, Cody enlisted the help of others to bury his body on private property and conceal his death.  Since that time, she has been stealing Arnold’s Social Security benefits.  The investigation regarding the death of Mr. Arnold was conducted by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, and to date no charges have been brought against Cody related to the manner of Mr. Arnold’s death or the disposal of his body.

 The plea agreement anticipates that Cody’s sentencing guideline range will be 21-27 months in prison, in addition to the 24-month mandatory prison sentence for aggravated identity theft.  The government will be seeking the maximum sentence under the sentencing guidelines.  The plea agreement also requires Cody to pay $203,528 in restitution including relinquishing her federal retirement account of approximately $36,000 to the government to be applied towards her restitution obligation.

Cody’s husband Ernest Cook pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property and is scheduled to be sentenced July 30, 2013, at 10:00 a.m.

The case was investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, and the Roseburg Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Helen L. Cooper, as part of a partnership venture between the Social Security Administration Office of General Counsel and the United States Attorney’s Office.