A Hawkins County woman allegedly has recorded a rare and duplicative double in the armchair avocation of post-mortem Social Security fraud, a federal prosecutor said this morning.
In 2004, Judy L. Dinsmore, 58, was convicted of stealing Social Security benefits for collecting 22 years worth of checks sent to her aunt, Stella Roberts, who died in 1982.
Dinsmore, 58, and her then-mother-in-law, Mary Lou Dinsmore, kept Roberts alive — on paper — long enough to amass $75,000 in payments intended for the dead woman.
The Rogersville woman was sentenced to five months in prison and ordered to pay restitution, but the game wasn’t over, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Helen C.T. Smith.
As it turns out, two of Dinsmore’s aunts died in 1982, according to the federal prosecutor. The other woman’s name was Debbie Roberts.
Similar to the artifice involving Stella Roberts, Dinsmore managed to convince federal officials that Debbie Roberts remained alive.
She allegedly began pocketing the dead woman’s Social Security benefits in 1982 and continued for almost three decades until November 2011 when the fraud was detected, according to Smith.
“It’s a lot of money,” the federal prosecutor said this morning.
Smith declined to detail the precise scope of the alleged Social Security theft fraud, but suggested extrapolation could give a curious person a ballpark figure.
The $38,710 detailed in the Jan. 10 indictment covers only a five-year period because that’s the statute of limitations for prosecuting a Social Security theft case.
Prosecutors are not constrained in the same manner in seeking restitution, and Smith said this morning she’ll be going after the whole ball of wax.
A person getting $1,000 in annual Social Security payments in 1982 — an entirely arbitrary starting point — taking into consideration annual cost-of-living increases, would have seen their annual government income rise to $2,098 by 2007.
Over that 25-year period, the Social Security checks would have totaled approximately $39,000, but that figure for the pre-2006 figure is certainly substantially low.
In the five years that followed, Dinsmore collected $38,710, or an average of about $7,700 per year, and Social Security recipients received no C.O.L.A. in 2008 or 2009.
Dinsmore made her initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Greeneville on Tuesday. U.S. Magistrate Dennis H. Inman released the defendant on a $20,000 personal recognizance bond.
Inman set a March 13 plea cut-off date.
The federal prosecutor says she anticipates Dinsmore and her court-appointed attorney will negotiate a plea agreement well before that date.