Three Members Of A Washington State Family Sentenced For Disability Fraud Scheme

Friday, June 1, 2012
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Three members of one family were sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to prison time for a scheme to defraud the Social Security Administration and the State Department of Social and Health Services of more than $300,000, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. Johnny George, 54, was sentenced to 27 months in prison; his wife, Linda George, 55, was sentenced to 37 months in prison; and their daughter, Christina George, 28, was sentenced to six months of electronic home confinement. The couple’s son, Paul George will be sentenced June 29, 2012. The 30-year fraud involved the couple and their children pretending that various family members were developmentally disabled and needed constant care. Not only did the parents apply for benefits, they had their children apply for benefits as either disabled, or as caregivers. The children continued the fraud once they became adults. U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik ordered the couple to pay $338,128 in restitution saying, “This is not a victimless crime... It impacts many people who need these benefits.”

The George family fraud continued over a 31-year period, netting the defendants more than $338,000. Johnny George fraudulently obtained a second Social Security number and, using this second identity, applied for disability in 1979. His son, Paul George applied for disability in 1983. Both men claimed to be developmentally disabled and unable to work. Johnny George claimed to be unable to feed himself, read, write or work. At the same time he claimed to be disabled, however, Johnny George owned and operated a used car lot. George and his son used alternate identities to live non-disabled lives at the same time they were collecting benefits. Linda George, who is Johnny’s wife and Paul’s mother, made numerous false statements to Social Security and to evaluators, and obtained numerous false identity documents. Linda George received and cashed more than 650 monthly benefit checks for her husband and son.

Christina George, the daughter of Johnny and Linda George also used false identities to illegally collect benefits from state and federal programs. In the Cookie Miller fake persona, she applied to be the representative payee of a person L.M. who falsely claimed to be disabled. She was paid nearly $24,000 in benefits she did not deserve. Christina George also claimed to be a caregiver for S.G. – a person who also was falsely claiming to be disabled. Christina George claimed to be the in home caregiver for S.G. who resided in Kent, Washington, even though Christina George resided in Vancouver, Washington—150 miles away from the man for whom she pretended to be caring. From February 2010, to June 2011, DSHS fraudulently paid Christina more than $19,000. Christina George was ordered to pay $42,275 in restitution.

In asking for significant sentences, prosecutors noted that the money stolen would have supported 45 SSI beneficiaries for a year. But the costs of the fraud go further. “When a few bad apples, like these defendants, are willing to lie to the faces of social workers about such basic facts as their identity and their mental capacity, social welfare agencies must use more and more of their budgets to detect and prosecute fraud instead of delivering benefits. Deliberate fraud also rightly outrages taxpayers, breeding public cynicism about social welfare programs and undermining support for programs needed by the poor. In all of these ways, defendants’ offenses are an assault on the community’s ability to deliver resources to the destitute. They should be regarded as crimes against the poor and punished accordingly,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

The case is one of a number of disability fraud cases filed in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Washington this year. The cases are being investigated by the Social Security Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG) Cooperative Disabilities Investigation Unit and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG), with assistance from the Washington State Patrol, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Office of Fraud and Accountability, and the Washington State Department of Licensing Fraud Investigation Unit.

The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mary K. Dimke and Special Assistant United States Attorney Seth Wilkinson. Mr. Wilkinson is an attorney with the Social Security Administration specially designated to prosecute Social Security fraud in federal court.