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Tennessee Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Conspiracy to Commit Identity Theft and Social Security Fraud

August 23, 2018

Office Affiliation: The Office of Investigations

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Tennessee:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – On August 22, 2018, Ricky James Bennefield, 53, of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, was sentenced by the Honorable Thomas W. Phillips, U.S. District Judge, to serve 96 months for mail and wire fraud and theft of government money, followed by a consecutive sentence of 24 months for aggravated identity theft, for a total of 120 months in federal prison.  Additionally, his federal sentence will run consecutive to a four-year sentence Bennefield is currently serving in the state system on unrelated charges.

Ricky Bennefield pleaded guilty in March 2018 to a three-count indictment charging him with mail and wire fraud, theft of government money and aggravated identity theft.  Documents on file with U.S. District Court detail the conspiracy committed by Bennefield and his wife, Erika Nicole Bennefield.  Erika Bennefield previously pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft and was sentenced to serve two years in federal prison.

During a December 2016 state investigation of Ricky Bennefield, on unrelated charges, local agents uncovered evidence that he engaged in theft of funds from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and committed aggravated identity theft involving his father-in-law.  A subsequent investigation by agents with the SSA Office of Inspector General revealed that the victim had passed away on a family trip in 2010 and Ricky Bennefield buried his body along the side of the road.  After driving away for approximately an hour and a half, with his wife and minor children in the car, he returned to the location where the body was buried, removed it, placed it back in the car, and drove to another location, where he reburied the body.  This was all done to conceal the victim’s death so that Ricky and Erika Bennefield could receive his Social Security benefits.  From approximately June 2010 through December 2016, the Bennefields continued to fraudulently receive Social Security benefits along with a monthly pension, also belonging to the victim, and deposited the funds in their own accounts or cashed the checks for their personal use.

In handing down the lengthy sentence, Judge Phillips noted that Ricky Bennefield’s actions “were disturbing and beyond imagination,” adding that they were “truly outrageous.” 

Agencies involved in this investigation included the SSA Office of Inspector General, Gatlinburg Police Department and Pigeon Forge Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kolman represented the United States in court proceedings.                                           

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – On August 22, 2018, Ricky James Bennefield, 53, of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, was sentenced by the Honorable Thomas W. Phillips, U.S. District Judge, to serve 96 months for mail and wire fraud and theft of government money, followed by a consecutive sentence of 24 months for aggravated identity theft, for a total of 120 months in federal prison.  Additionally, his federal sentence will run consecutive to a four-year sentence Bennefield is currently serving in the state system on unrelated charges.

Ricky Bennefield pleaded guilty in March 2018 to a three-count indictment charging him with mail and wire fraud, theft of government money and aggravated identity theft.  Documents on file with U.S. District Court detail the conspiracy committed by Bennefield and his wife, Erika Nicole Bennefield.  Erika Bennefield previously pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft and was sentenced to serve two years in federal prison.

During a December 2016 state investigation of Ricky Bennefield, on unrelated charges, local agents uncovered evidence that he engaged in theft of funds from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and committed aggravated identity theft involving his father-in-law.  A subsequent investigation by agents with the SSA Office of Inspector General revealed that the victim had passed away on a family trip in 2010 and Ricky Bennefield buried his body along the side of the road.  After driving away for approximately an hour and a half, with his wife and minor children in the car, he returned to the location where the body was buried, removed it, placed it back in the car, and drove to another location, where he reburied the body.  This was all done to conceal the victim’s death so that Ricky and Erika Bennefield could receive his Social Security benefits.  From approximately June 2010 through December 2016, the Bennefields continued to fraudulently receive Social Security benefits along with a monthly pension, also belonging to the victim, and deposited the funds in their own accounts or cashed the checks for their personal use.

In handing down the lengthy sentence, Judge Phillips noted that Ricky Bennefield’s actions “were disturbing and beyond imagination,” adding that they were “truly outrageous.” 

Agencies involved in this investigation included the SSA Office of Inspector General, Gatlinburg Police Department and Pigeon Forge Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kolman represented the United States in court proceedings.                                           

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