Yvonne Owens-Morris Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Court
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Missoula, on April 30, 2013, before Chief U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen, YVONNE OWENS-MORRIS, a 48-year-old resident of Hungry Horse, pled guilty to theft of government money. Sentencing has been set for August 18, 2013. She is currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad C. Spraker, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
On May 8, 2008, OWENS-MORRIS applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in Kalispell. During the application, OWENS-MORRIS was asked whether she had sold, transferred title, disposed of or given away any money or other property in the past three years. OWENS-MORRIS was also asked about any income she received or expected to receive beginning April 2008.
According to her application, OWENS-MORRIS received $300 a month from her sister from April 2008 to May 2008 and $300 a month on a continuing basis from her parents. Aside from food stamps, two vehicles valued together at $4,500, and a bank account containing $100, OWENS-MORRIS indicated that she had no other financial resources. OWENS-MORRIS declared under penalty of perjury that the information she provided was true.
SSA conducted eligibility reviews with OWENS-MORRIS on September 21, 2009; October 26, 2009; and December 8, 2009. On each occasion OWENS-MORRIS reported owning assets valued at less than $9,000 and monthly income of $600 or less.
OWENS-MORRIS in fact owned assets and received income that made her ineligible to receive SSI. A year prior to applying for SSI, on May 11, 2007, OWENS-MORRIS deeded to her sister a property in Kalispell known as the Dumas Walker Cowboy Bar. Her sister later signed a power of attorney permitting OWENS-MORRIS to make real estate transactions concerning the property, and on January 14, 2008, OWENS-MORRIS, acting under the power of attorney, sold the property for $200,000. From January 2008 to June 2008, her sister sent OWENS-MORRIS approximately $87,000.
On March 22, 2008, OWENS-MORRIS fell and suffered a back injury on her mother-in-law's property. OWENS-MORRIS settled with her mother-in-law's home owner's insurance. On July 22, 2008, she received a $101,000 check.
From July 2008 to June 2009, OWENS-MORRIS held a UBS investment account. In July 2008, the account held a total of $2,666.
On October 18, 2008, OWENS-MORRIS's mother died. On April 16, 2009, OWENS-MORRIS, as her mother's court appointed representative, deeded a property in Refugio, Texas from her mother to herself and her father. County tax records value the property at $47,170.
In total OWENS-MORRIS received $24,622.04 in SSI benefits to which she was not entitled. Under an agreement between SSA and the State of Montana, whenever an applicant qualifies for SSI, that applicant is also eligible to receive Medicaid benefits. From April 2008 and continuing into 2011, Montana Medicaid paid out in excess of $40,000 in benefits to OWENS-MORRIS's medical providers to which OWENS-MORRIS was not entitled.
OWENS-MORRIS 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.