Brenda Kay Rutecki 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 15, 2009, before Senior U.S. District Judge Charles C. Lovell, BRENDA KAY RUTECKI, a 44-year-old resident of Lincoln, pled guilty to theft of federal government monies and forgery of U.S. Treasury checks. Sentencing is set for April 15, 2009.
In an Offer of Proof filed by the United States, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
A Social Security beneficiary, identified here as P.M., passed away on April 15, 2006. Because the Social Security Administration (SSA) was not advised of the death, it continued to send monthly payments to P.M.'s last known address in Lincoln. Between May 2006 and April 2007, SSA issued 12 checks to P.M. at her address in Lincoln. Of these posthumously issued checks, four were negotiated, and eight merely expired for lack of transaction, for a total loss of $3,540.
RUTECKI was interviewed by an agent of the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General and a U.S. Postal Inspector. She reviewed the checks and admitted that she had retrieved the checks from the mail, signed P.M.'s name, and negotiated the SSA checks after P.M.'s death by forging P.M.'s signature. P.S., whose name appears on one of the checks, was her former boyfriend. RUTECKI said she had told P.S. that P.M. was sick and could not cash the checks. P.S. then took the checks to his bank and deposited them before withdrawing money and giving the cash to RUTECKI. RUTECKI said she knew it was wrong to cash the checks and to forge P.M.'s name, but she said she needed the money.
RUTECKI 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 Inspector General's Office for the Social Security Administration.
RUTECKI was indicted in relation to the "Pennies from Heaven Project," a cooperative initiative of the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney's Office, which targets fraud in social security programs, particularly with regard to the theft of social security benefits by relatives and others of deceased beneficiaries. Through vigorous prosecution of offenders, the agencies seek to protect the integrity of the social security program and insure that such benefits go only to those qualified and entitled to receive them. To report all suspected social security fraud, please call 1-800-269-0271.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.