Laurel woman sentenced for lying to get Social Security Administration benefits

Date: 
Thursday, March 25, 2021
Office Affiliation: 

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

BILLINGS – A Laurel woman who admitted lying to receive federal benefits to which she was not entitled was sentenced today to three years of probation and ordered to pay $325,870 restitution, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson said.

Tanya Smith, 45, pleaded guilty on Oct. 1, 2020 to theft of government property.

U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided.

“Persons who lie to receive Social Security Administration and health care benefits at the expense of those who qualify for assistance will be fully investigated and prosecuted,” Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson said.

“Supplemental Security Income is a needs-based safety net for the most vulnerable among us, and my office will aggressively pursue those who abuse it for personal gain,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. “I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for its support of our investigation and its efforts to recover these taxpayer funds.”

In court documents filed by the government, prosecutors alleged that from about 2002 until 2019, Smith made misrepresentations about her living situation, marital status and income to the Social Security Administration to receive benefits. The misrepresentations resulted in Smith receiving $130,018 in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and $195,852 in Medicaid benefits, for a total of $325,870, to which she otherwise was not entitled to receive. Smith began receiving SSI benefits in 1987 and then married in 2002. In 2004, Smith corrected her living situation with SSA, noting that she was married and living with her husband, making her ineligible to receive SSI benefits. About two months later, Smith falsely reported she had separated from her husband and was no longer living with him. Smith continued to make this false claim for the next 15 years. Smith admitted to law enforcement to concealing her living arrangement to secure government benefits.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bryan Dake and Karla Painter prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General.