Audra Ann Fisher Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Court
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Missoula, on November 19, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy, AUDRA ANN FISHER, a 43-year-old resident of Missoula, pled guilty to theft of government property. Sentencing has been set for February 27, 2013. She is currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Racicot, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
FISHER's minor son is disabled and has received Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") since January 2000. FISHER is his representative payee and, as such, agreed to perform a number of accounting and reporting duties, including reporting changes in both her and her son's income and her son's living arrangements. FISHER was periodically reminded of her reporting requirements beginning in 2000.
In April 2002, FISHER began collecting child support payments for her son and failed to report them to the Social Security Administration ("SSA") as required by law. On November 10, 2009, during a routine eligibility review, FISHER finally admitted to receiving sporadic child support payments, but under-reported the total amount of money she had received.
In addition to concealing income from the SSA, FISHER also made false statements to the SSA regarding her son's living arrangements. Between May 30, 2006, and December 1, 2006, and again between December 6, 2007, and April 10, 2009, her son was housed at a treatment center in Texas. On March 18, 2008, FISHER completed two separate Representative Payee Reports and falsely stated on both that her son lived with her during the reporting periods. She also provided false information about her son's residency during an April 2, 2009 SSI review. It was not until April 15, 2009, and again on July 15, 2009, that FISHER accurately reported her son's presence at the treatment center.
On May 11 and May 12, 2011, SSA Special Agent Jacques Hansen interviewed FISHER. She admitted that she knew she was required to report the child support payments but concealed them in order to continue collecting her son's SSI benefits. She also admitted that she understood her legal reporting requirements, confirmed that her son had been housed at a treatment center during the periods referenced above, and said that she failed to report his absence because she knew it would affect his eligibility for SSI.
As a result of FISHER's failure to report income changes and her false statements regarding her son's living arrangements, the SSA overpaid his benefits by $18,192.99.
FISHER faces possible penalties of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release.
The investigation was conducted by the Social Security Administration - Office of Inspector General.