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St. Louis County Woman Admits Helping Her Son Fake a Disability

February 15, 2024

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Missouri

ST. LOUIS – A woman from St. Louis County, Missouri on Thursday admitted helping her son fake a mental disability for more than 13 years so he could receive government benefits.

Zella Rives, 57, of Edmundson, admitted in a plea agreement and in court that she submitted a report to the Social Security Administration in 2010 on behalf of her son, Gino Rives, that bolstered his false claims of disability. She was appointed representative payee for her son because the agency believed he was incapable of managing his money. Zella Rives fraudulently confirmed his eligibility in 2019, concealing his ownership of multiple houses and vehicles, his ability to earn income and his relationship with his girlfriend, her plea agreement says. 

Between May 11, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2023, the Social Security Administration electronically transmitted more than $91,000 in benefits to Rives on her son’s behalf. 

Rives pleaded guilty to four counts of theft of government funds and one count of making a false statement. She is scheduled to be sentenced June 18. The charge of making a false statement is punishable by up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, and the theft of government funds charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and the same fine.

Gino Rives, 36, of Edmundson, has pleaded guilty in two separate cases, admitting both the disability fraud and his financial exploitation of two elderly women.

The Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Secret Service investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Berry is prosecuting the case.

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