Washington Couple Sentenced to Prison for Long-Running Disability Fraud Scheme

Friday, January 6, 2012
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A Mill Creek, Washington couple was sentenced to prison today in U.S. District Court in Seattle for a long-running scheme to defraud government programs, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. ANTHONY GEORGE, 37, and ROXANNE GEORGE, 35, both pleaded guilty in September 2011, to Social Security fraud. ANTHONY GEORGE was sentenced to 27 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and must pay $198,148 in restitution to state and federal disability programs. ROXANNE GEORGE was sentenced to six months in prison and six months at a half way house, three years of supervised release and has agreed to pay $91,527 for her fraudulent use of state and federal assistance programs. At sentencing Judge Richard A. Jones noted that the couple lied repeatedly to obtain benefits. “They reduced the funds for others who were in need…,” Judge Jones said. “You may have been depriving other children, the same age as your own children, the benefits they need, the medical attention they need, because of your fraud.”

In their plea agreements the couple admits that in 1982, ANTHONY GEORGE, who had previously been assigned a Social Security number under his true name, obtained a second Social Security number in the fictitious name of Sonny Fisher. In 1993, ANTHONY GEORGE, using the fictitious Sonny Fisher identity, applied for disability payments saying Sonny Fisher could not work. At multiple interviews over the years ANTHONY GEORGE (in the Sonny Fisher persona) pretended that he was profoundly disabled and unable to work. In October 2010, ROXANNE GEORGE appeared with her husband, pretending to be the neighbor of ‘Sonny Fisher’ and verified that ‘Fisher’ never worked, could not work, and could not drive. She claimed he had $100 in his bank account. In fact, ANTHONY GEORGE was an active buyer and seller of used cars, lived in a $430,000 home that he had contracted to purchase, and had more than $10,000 in his bank account. ROXANNE GEORGE further defrauded state and federal assistance programs by failing to report that she lived with her husband, ANTHONY GEORGE. She claimed to be a single mother with three kids living in Everett, Washington. During in-home visits and in written submissions, ROXANNE and ANTHONY GEORGE pretended to be brother and sister rather than husband and wife. Between 1996 and 2010, she fraudulently obtained $67,510 in food, healthcare and financial assistance benefits from the State of Washington.

When he addressed the court, ANTHONY GEORGE said “I am a liar. It’s all there in black and white.”

In their request for significant prison sentences, prosecutors describe the multiple harms caused by the fraud. The “defendants stole from programs intended to assist the poor. In so doing, they robbed the truly needy of scarce resources. In addition to the substantial direct costs on the program, fraud of this nature drives up the administrative costs of social welfare programs by requiring expensive measures to detect and prosecute fraud. This type of conduct also causes public cynicism about social welfare programs, undermining support for programs needed by the poor,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

Six other defendants were indicted in the disability fraud investigation unveiled in June 2011. Two, Ronnie George and Nancy Stone, have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in February 2012. Four defendants, Johnny George, Linda George, Paul George and Christina George are scheduled for trial in March 2012.

The case is one of a number of disability fraud cases filed in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Washington. 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 Special Assistant United States Attorney Seth Wilkinson and Assistant United States Attorney Mary K. Dimke. Mr. Wilkinson is an attorney with the Social Security Administration specially designated to prosecute Social Security fraud in federal court