Detroit Woman Allegedly Collected Missing Brother's Disability Benefits

Saturday, January 26, 2013
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The story of a man who lived for years without an identity took another twist this week when federal authorities filed a complaint alleging his sister stole his Social Security payments.

Janine Williams said she knew taking the money meant for her brother Maurice Williams' care was wrong and spent some of it on bills, according to an affidavit with the complaint. She also said she didn't expect him to be gone for so long.

In 2008, Maurice Williams, 46, who is severely developmentally disabled, disappeared from home and was found on a Detroit street. He was unable to tell officials his name. Police didn't get any hits when they ran his fingerprints. He was placed in a group home and became known as John D108 Doe.

In October, the Free Press ran a story about Williams and his guardian's quest to learn his true identity. His relatives came forward after recognizing him in the story.

Janine Williams said she thought her brother had been kidnapped. She is seeking guardianship of him.

In the affidavit, Kathryn Krieg, a special agent with the Social Security Administration, wrote that after Maurice Williams disappeared in 2008, Janine Williams continued to sign reports saying his benefits were being used for his care. She is accused of stealing at least $1,000 in Social Security payments. The exact amount is not given.

"Williams knew it was wrong to continue to collect his money and not spend the money on Maurice Williams," Krieg wrote. "Williams stated that she did not anticipate Maurice Williams being gone for this long."

Maurice Williams began getting Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, payments as a child in 1979. His mother, Mary Brown, was his representative payee until her death in March 2008, according to the affidavit. Janine Williams was then designated to receive the benefits.

Social Security officials terminated Janine Williams as her brother's representative payee in October, following the Free Press coverage.

Janine Williams said her brother often wandered away and police officers always returned him home, according to the affidavit. She said she contacted Social Security officials when he went missing in 2008 and was told to wait to see whether he came back. Her family searched for him, she said.

"After six months had passed, I began to believe that someone was keeping my brother against his will and thought that I could catch them if they ever tried to apply for monies for him," Janine Williams said in a written statement included in the affidavit. "Eventually, my reasoning led to the continuation of SSI payments being paid to me on behalf of my brother."

She said she is willing to pay the money back.

Janine Williams had an initial hearing Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurie Michelson. She was given a $10,000 unsecured bond, according to court records. A preliminary exam has been scheduled for Feb. 15.

A message left for Janine Williams through a relative was not immediately returned Friday. Her attorney, public defender Rafael Villarruel, also did not immediately return a message.