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Former Riverside County Deputy Public Defender Gets Year in Prison for Collecting Her Dead Grandmother’s Social Security Benefits

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 2, 2014

RIVERSIDE, California – An Upland attorney was sentenced today to one year and one day in federal prison for stealing $129,795 from the Social Security Administration (SSA) after her grandmother died in 2000.

Audrey Owens, 61, who until she retired in September was a deputy public defender for Riverside County, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips.

Owens pleaded guilty on March 3 to two counts of theft of government property, admitting that she bilked the government for 12 years.

According to court documents, from June 2000 through August 2012, Owens fraudulently obtained social security benefits intended for her grandmother, who died in May 2000. After her grandmother’s death, Owens changed the address of a joint account she shared with her grandmother and continued to receive the dead woman’s social security payments.

Owens “devised and executed a plan to illicitly obtain significant amounts of SSA benefits intended for her deceased grandmother,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo filed with the court. “Indeed, within just one week of her grandmother’s death, [Owens] sprang her plan into action by immediately removing her father’s name off of the [grandmother’s] Kansas City account and changing the address of record to her own address in Upland. This allowed her to continue to receive SSA benefits, undetected, for over 12 years, totaling over $129,000. She was only stopped when SSA began to suspect fraud – otherwise, the theft would have likely continued indefinitely and resulted in even greater losses.”

The investigation in this case was conducted by the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, Office of Investigations.

Release No. 14-068

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