10 Individuals Charged With Social Security Fraud In Operation Dead Ringer

Date: 
Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Office Affiliation: 

From the U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida:

Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces the filing of federal charges against 10 individuals in Operation Dead Ringer. The individuals are charged in 10 separate cases with cumulatively stealing more than $500,000 by collecting benefits from the Social Security Administration on behalf of beneficiaries who were actually deceased. The maximum penalty for stealing federal benefits is 10 years in federal prison per count.

Those charged include:      

Shayontay Johnson (32, Belleair) was charged with theft of government funds. According to her plea agreement, from February 2016 through July 2018, Johnson fraudulently collected more than $22,300 of her mother’s Social Security benefits following her mother’s death on February 6, 2016.

Robert Miller (53, Valrico) has been charged with theft of government funds. According to the indictment, from December 2009 through June 2019, Miller fraudulently collected approximately $75,000 of his mother’s Social Security benefits following her death in December 2009.

Santos Flores (62, Lakeland) has been charged with theft of government funds. According to the indictment, from August 2013 through June 2019, Flores fraudulently collected approximately $82,900 of his sister’s Social Security benefits after her death in August 2013.

Susan Hatfield (45, Brooksville) has been charged with theft of government funds. According to the indictment, from May 2013 through May 2019, Hatfield fraudulently collected approximately $61,000 of her father’s Social Security benefits after his death in May 2013.

Peggy Etheridge (56, Brooksville) has been charged with theft of government funds. According to the indictment, from January 2015 through June 2019, Etheridge fraudulently collected approximately $49,000 of her mother’s Social Security benefits after her mother had died in December 2014.

Dina Salem (64, Tampa) has been charged with theft of government funds. According to the indictment, from August 2013 through February 2017, Salem fraudulently collected approximately $59,500 of her former partner’s Social Security benefits after his death in August 2013.

Deborah Leonhardt (60, Sebastian) has been charged with theft of government funds. According to the indictment, from October 2013 through April 2019, Leonhardt fraudulently collected approximately $82,000 of her partner’s Social Security benefits after his death in October 2013.

Sondra Luke (45, Cocoa) has been charged with theft of government funds. According to the indictment, from August 2013 through March 2019, Luke fraudulently collected approximately $83,000 of her mother’s Social Security benefits after her death in August 2013.

Alex Keith (34, Ormond Beach) has been charged with theft of government funds. According to the indictment, from December 2014 though May 2019, Keith fraudulently collected approximately $50,800 of his mother’s Social Security benefits after her death in December 2014.

James Heide (37, Summerfield) has been charged with theft of government funds. According to the indictment, from November 2013 through July 2019, Heide fraudulently collected approximately $84,900 of his mother’s Social Security benefits after her death in November 2013.
 

Operation Dead Ringer, initiated in the Middle District of Florida, aggressively targets those individuals who steal Social Security benefits inadvertently paid to deceased beneficiaries.

“Theft of government program dollars will not be tolerated,” said United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez. “Those who steal Social Security benefits threaten the integrity of the program and divert vital resources away from those who have earned them and need them most.”

“We will continue to work closely with the Social Security Administration and other agencies to identify beneficiary deaths and pursue those who misuse those payments after someone dies,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. “I want to thank the United States Attorney’s Office for its support of our investigations and its efforts to bring these individuals to justice and recover funds for Social Security.”

The cases are being investigated by the Social Security Administration – Office of the Inspector General, with assistance from other federal and local law enforcement agencies. Special Assistant United States Attorney Suzanne Huyler is coordinating the Operation. She, along with Assistant United States Attorney Michael Felicetta, will be prosecuting the above cases.

An information and an indictment are merely formal charges that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.