Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Social Security fraud

Social Security IG probe turns up check-cashing Texas daughter's dead parents

An ongoing Social Security fraud investigation that led authorities to dead bodies in a Kentucky storage unit and a Texas yard has also landed a woman behind bars for at least a decade.
Officials with the Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General discovered the remains of a long-deceased man who had supposedly been cashing his Social Security checks for decades while looking into a suspected case of fraud this January.
In April, DNA tests confirmed the remains were those of Luther Broughton, a Texas man whose daughter Judith had concealed her father’s body since his death in 1990 in order to continue collecting his Social Security payments.
Judith Broughton’s mother, Mary, has been missing for several months, according to the SSA IG.
But a body discovered Nov. 5 on Judith’s southwest Texas property is believed to be the remains of Mary Broughton and has raised additional questions for the SSA IG and local police.
The twisted case first came to the SSA’s attention in 2011 when its office in Odessa, Texas, began trying to contact Luther Broughton, who would have been 103 years old if he were still alive and cashing the monthly government checks.
In an effort to cut down on fraud and waste, the SSA routinely contacts anyone older than 100 as part of its Centenarian Project.
Odessa SSA officials passed the case along to the IG staff after no one could reach the elderly Social Security recipient.
Judith and Mary told the IG officials who contacted them that Luther was simply unavailable because he was traveling. When Luther supposedly called the SSA to confirm his status soon after, officials were skeptical because “the caller spoke with a high-pitched voice, and didn’t sound like an older man,” the IG said.
The agency soon cut off Luther’s Social Security payments and stepped up its search for the missing man.
Suspicions fell on Judith after her aunt told officials the family had not seen or heard from Luther in more than 20 years and record searches failed to reveal even a trace of his existence after 1988, the IG said.
Investigators located Judith’s Lexington, Ky., storage unit and discovered that although Luther’s name was also on the lease, he had never been seen at the unit.
Tucked behind a Lincoln Town Car in the back of the storage unit, IG officials and Lexington police discovered the “mummified remains” of Luther Broughton wrapped in a tarp and covered with cat litter, blankets and a carpet, the IG said.
Judith pleaded guilty in July to stealing more than $245,000 of her father’s Social Security benefits between 1990 and 2011. In October, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to repay the full amount to the government.
The discovery of a body believed to be the remains of Judith’s mother earlier this month reopened the case.
Deceased payee fraud siphons millions from the SSA every year. A 2010 report from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said known cases of such fraud since 2000 have drained nearly $60 million.
Go here for the full SSA IG report.

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