MISSOULA — A Philipsburg woman who admitted to lying for more than 10 years about her income and resources to receive more Social Security benefits and other federal aid than she qualified for has been sentenced today to a year and a day in prison, followed by three years controlled release, and was ordered to pay a full refund of $142,542, US attorney Jesse Laslovich said.
Virginia Kathleen Pearson, 56, pleaded guilty to false statements to a government agency in April.
U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy presided. Judge Molloy has taken Pearson into custody.
“Pearson knew she was required to truthfully report her income and resources, but instead, she lied for over a decade to increase her benefits. Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid are federal programs designed to help those in need and ensure they receive adequate care if they cannot afford it. Pearson’s behavior got help from others who had no options. We will continue to protect federal benefits and investigate and prosecute those who attempt to exploit these programs. I would like to thank U.S. Assistant Attorney Karla E. Painter, the Office of the Inspector General of Social Security and the Montana Department of Health and Human Services for their work on this case,” said U.S. Attorney Laslovich. .
“This sentence holds Ms. Pearson responsible for defrauding government programs. As part of her plan, she abused the Supplemental Security Income program, the need-based safety net for the most vulnerable among us by faking her true circumstances and getting SSA to falsely pay her more than $101,000,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the Social Insurance Bank: “My office will continue to prosecute those who operate SSA programs for personal gain. I thank our law enforcement partners for their support in this investigation and the US Attorney’s Office for pursuing this case.”
The government claimed in court documents that Pearson filed a Social Security Income (SSI) application with the SSA in 2006 and was approved for benefits in 2008. Pearson was informed of her obligation to report any change in her household income, resources and family composition. Pearson had been advised that she lived in a house with her husband, Doyle Pearson, and as such, his income and resources were taken into account in determining the amount of SSI for which Pearson was eligible. A month after she received her first SSA payment, Pearson reported to SSA that her husband had been evicted. Pearson’s SSI benefits rose significantly after SSA removed Doyle Pearson’s contributions and recalculated Pearson’s benefits. Furthermore, between November 2008 and December 2019, Pearson received nine cost-of-living adjustments and two amendment letters detailing her obligation to report changes in her income, resources and household composition.
In August 2019, Doyle Pearson filed for Social Security retirement benefits, reported that he was married, and provided the same address where Pearson stated she had been living alone since September 2008.
In response, SSA conducted a reassessment, and Pearson again represented that she lived alone, rented a house, had one savings account, and co-owned one vehicle. Pearson stated that Doyle Pearson lived at a different address and that they had been separated for 15 years.
An investigation found that Pearson’s statements were false and that the couple lived together and co-owned the house. Pearson also had undeclared bank accounts and additional vehicles in her name or with her husband.
Pearson made similar misrepresentations to Montana Public Assistance. In all, Pearson fraudulently obtained $101,136 from SSA, $23,116 from the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, which distributes the benefits of the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and $18,203 from Medicaid.
Assistant US Attorney Karla E. Painter continued the case, which was being investigated by the SSA Office of Inspector General and the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.