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Operation Dead Ringer Nets Five from Tampa Bay in Social Security Fraud

Arrest | Crime | Indictment

Federal charges were filed against a total of 10 Floridians, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

TAMPA – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida has filed charges against 10 Floridians – five from the Tampa Bay area – in Operation Dead Ringer.

They are charged in 10 separate cases with cumulatively stealing more than $500,000 by collecting benefits from the Social Security Administration on behalf of beneficiaries who were actually deceased. The maximum penalty for stealing federal benefits is 10 years in federal prison per count.

The Tampa Bay residents who were charged::

Shayontay Johnson, 32, of Belleair, was charged with theft of government funds. According to her plea agreement, from February 2016 through July 2018, Johnson fraudulently collected more than $22,300 of her mother’s Social Security benefits following her mother’s death on Feb. 6, 2016.

Robert Miller, 53, of Valrico, has been charged with theft of government funds. According to the indictment, from December 2009 through June 2019, Miller fraudulently collected about $75,000 of his mother’s Social Security benefits after her death in December 2009.

Susan Hatfield, 45, of Brooksville, has been charged with theft of government funds. According to the indictment, from May 2013 through May 2019, Hatfield fraudulently collected about $61,000 of her father’s Social Security benefits after his death in May 2013.

Peggy Etheridge, 56, Brooksville, has been charged with theft of government funds. According to the indictment, from January 2015 through June 2019, Etheridge fraudulently collected about $49,000 of her mother’s Social Security benefits after her mother had died in December 2014.

Dina Salem, 64, of Tampa, has been charged with theft of government funds. According to the indictment, from August 2013 through February 2017, Salem fraudulently collected about $59,500 of her former partner’s Social Security benefits after his death in August 2013.

Maria Chapa Lopez | US Attorney Middle District of Florida | Courts
Maria Chapa Lopez

Operation Dead Ringer, begun in the Middle District of Florida, aggressively targeted those who stole Social Security benefits inadvertently paid to deceased beneficiaries.

“Theft of government program dollars will not be tolerated,” U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez said. “Those who steal Social Security benefits threaten the integrity of the program and divert vital resources away from those who have earned them and need them most.”

Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the Social Security Administration said, “We will continue to work closely with the Social Security Administration and other agencies to identify beneficiary deaths and pursue those who misuse those payments after someone dies. I want to thank the United States Attorney’s Office for its support of our investigations and its efforts to bring these individuals to justice and recover funds for Social Security.”

An information and an indictment are merely formal charges that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty

U.S. Attorney | Crime | Courts | Tampabay News | News Tampa

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