FORMER RENTON RESIDENT INDICTED FOR STEALING MONEY FROM DISABLED SOCIAL SECURITY RECIPIENTS
Defendant Allegedly Used Funds Paid to Vulnerable Citizens for His Own Expenses
MAURICE D. BROOKS, Sr., 46, a former resident of Renton, Washington, was arrested last week in San Antonio, Texas, for Social Security Representative Payee Fraud and Theft of Public Money. BROOKS moved to Texas in July 2008, after serving for years as a representative payee for about three hundred disabled Social Security beneficiaries in the Seattle area. According to the indictment returned by a Seattle federal grand jury, BROOKS embezzled more than $300,000 from client accounts.
Many Social Security beneficiaries, particularly those with mental disabilities, request, or are required by SSA to have, a representative payee whose duty it is to make sure that the beneficiaries’ daily needs are met and that their SSA benefits are properly maintained and spent. For example, a representative payee has a duty to ensure that funds for food, housing, and clothing are provided to the beneficiary out of the beneficiary’s monthly Social Security payment. If a beneficiary has no suitable family member or friend to assist them, the disabled beneficiary requests, or is required to have, an organizational representative payee (ORP) manage their benefits.
BROOKS served as an ORP. Such a payee must be a licensed, bonded, non-profit organization. In exchange for working as an ORP, the ORP is permitted to charge a fee of $34 per month per beneficiary. If the beneficiary has drug or alcohol issues in addition to their disabling impairment, then the ORP can charge a fee of $68 per month per beneficiary. The ORP takes its fee out of the monthly Social Security benefit paid to the disabled beneficiary.
As a representative payee, the indictment alleges BROOKS took far more than the $34 or $68 fee for each beneficiary who he was supposed to be helping each month. Instead, BROOKS, while acting in a fiduciary capacity as a representative payee, allegedly embezzled SSA benefits funds from his disabled clients. Using a conservative estimate, SSA investigators calculate that during the years 2003 through 2007, BROOKS embezzled approximately $302,727.42 in SSA benefits from his disabled clients and used those funds for his personal enjoyment. In one particular case, BROOKS allegedly embezzled approximately $36,800 from a disabled man. The disabled client had received a lump sum back payment of SSA benefits, but BROOKS never credited the full amount of the benefits to the client’s account ledger.
The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case is being investigated by Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG) and is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Johanna Vanderlee. Ms. Vanderlee’s position is funded by the Social Security Administration as a part of SSA's efforts to combat identity theft and Social Security fraud.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.