Brandee Lynn Tucker Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
Bill Mercer, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, announced today that during a federal court session in Helena on January 7, 2009, before Senior U.S. District Judge Charles C. Lovell, BRANDEE LYNN TUCKER, a 35-year-old resident of Helena, pled guilty to theft of federal property by fraud. Sentencing is set for April 9, 2009. She is currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by the United States, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
On July 26, 2005, TUCKER, then known as Brandee Lynn Olson, completed an application for assistance on which she indicated that she resided with her three children and no one else in Helena. She certified that the information was true.
On August 1, 2005, TUCKER had her in-person interview with a Social Services specialist with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (MDPHHS) and signed a form in which she acknowledged that she understood the requirement to report to MDPHHS when her gross monthly income (GMI) exceeded the standard for her household of four ($2,043), a threshold past which her benefits would be reduced or eliminated. TUCKER advised that her household consisted of herself and her three children and that her bills were paid by her estranged husband.
On January 2, 2006, TUCKER signed a six-month report that indicated there were no changes to the number of persons living in her household, and she wrote, "Same," under household income.
On July 31, 2006, TUCKER signed a recertification stating that she was the only one in the household receiving wages from the Veterans Administration (VA).
On August 9, 2006, TUCKER was telephonically interviewed. TUCKER said she was separated from her husband, that he resided in Colorado, and she did not pay rent because she was living with her brother. On August 18, 2006, TUCKER signed a form which again advised her of the reporting requirement to MDPHHS if her household GMI exceeded $2,097.
On January 29, 2007, MDPHHS received TUCKER'S six-month report. TUCKER wrote that she resided with her three children and her household gross monthly income was $700.
On June 19, 2007, TUCKER signed a recertification indicating that she resided only with her three children and that she was employed at the VA working 38 hours per two week period, at $9 per hour.
On July 13, 2007, TUCKER, in a personal interview, reiterated that she was separated from her husband who lived in Colorado. She also signed a form which again advised her of the reporting requirement to MDPHHS if her household GMI exceeded $2,167.
On July 24, 2007, MDPHHS received a rental agreement dated April 1, 2007, that stated TUCKER was paying $350 a month in rent to her brother.
On August 27, 2007, MDPHHS received wage verification for TUCKER'S employment at the VA that indicated that TUCKER'S rate of pay was $10 per hour and she worked 15 hours per pay period. As it appeared that the wage verification had been altered, the VA Human Resources was contacted for verification. The VA indicated that TUCKER was employed 40 hours a week at $10 per hour.
On September 18, 2007, TUCKER'S case was referred to MDPHHS Program Compliance Bureau for investigation.
On October 1, 2007, MDPHHS sent a certified letter with return receipt to TUCKER. The letter advised TUCKER that she was being investigated for an intentional program violation.
On October 2, 2007, TUCKER'S then husband, J.O., signed for the letter. TUCKER'S husband, it was later determined, had been employed as a full time employee earning approximately $18.65 per hour. J.O. disclosed that he had married TUCKER on July 12, 2003, in Helena. TUCKER, her three children, J.O., and his son, had all resided together since that time. J.O. never lived in Colorado during their marriage. They resided together until they separated in October 2007. J.O.'s brother was never their landlord. J.O. had worked full time since August 17, 2005, and earned $18.65 per hour.
A supervisor at the VA was shown the wage verification TUCKER had submitted which purportedly had been signed by her supervisor. The VA advised that the person identified had never been TUCKER'S supervisor, and the information on the income verification form was incorrect. The VA employee named never signed any document for TUCKER.
A computation of TUCKER'S true wages and J.O.'s contribution to household income (his wages) indicate that TUCKER was not eligible for USDA food stamps based on her household income which exceeded her GMI. TUCKER received $10,479 in food stamps between October 2005 and January 2008, which she was not entitled to receive.
TUCKER faces possible penalties of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl E. Rostad prosecuted the case for the United States.
The investigation was conducted by the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The "Trick for Treat Project" is a cooperative initiative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney's Office which targets fraud in food stamp and related programs, particularly with regard to lying about the amount of household income, the number of household members, or other factors which affect eligibility for need-based benefits. Through vigorous prosecution of offenders, the agencies seek to protect the integrity of the Food Stamp Program and insure that such benefits go only to those qualified and entitled to receive them. To report all suspected welfare fraud, please call 1-800-424-9121.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.