Cleveland woman charged with theft of government funds
A federal Grand Jury returned a two-count indictment charging Rita Johnson, 61, of Cleveland, with theft of government funds and making false statements in relation to fraudulently securing Social Security benefits, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
The indictment alleges that Johnson, the representative payee for her grandmother, stole approximately $74,197 in government funds from the date of her grandmother’s death on May 2, 2004 until March 2011.
Johnson accomplished this scheme by concealing her grandmother’s death and then converting her deceased grandmother’s Social Security benefits for her own use in violation of her responsibilities as a representative payee and federal law, according to the indictment.
The indictment also alleges that, when asked by federal agents about her grandmother, Johnson made false statements and fraudulently provided a forged funeral service program that listed an inaccurate date of death.
Assistant United States Attorney Matthew J. Cronin is prosecuting the case following an investigation by the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General.
If convicted, the Court will determine the defendant’s sentence after a review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense, and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum. In most cases, it will be less than the maximum.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.