News and Press Releases

Defendant Used Funds Paid to Vulnerable Citizens for His Lavish Lifestyle

February 5, 2009

MAURICE D. BROOKS, Sr., 46, a former resident of Renton, Washington, was sentenced today in San Antonio, Texas, to 78 months in prison, three years of supervised release and $308,000 in restitution 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 hundreds of disabled Social Security beneficiaries in the Seattle area. BROOKS embezzled more than $308,000 from client accounts. After BROOKS was indicted in the Western District of Washington, he was arrested and held in custody in Texas. On November 5, 2008, BROOKS pleaded guilty, admitting his criminal conduct. In sentencing BROOKS to the lengthy term, U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Texas, Orlando L. Garcia said he was, “disturbed by the vulnerability of the victims” and that, “Mr. Brooks has made no attempt thus far to repay his vulnerable victims.”

BROOKS served as an organizational representative payee (ORP) for over 750 disabled “clients.” As an ORP, he was permitted to charge a fee of $34 per month per beneficiary or $68 per month if the beneficiary also had substance abuse issues.

BROOKS, however, took far more than the $34 or $68 fee permitted by SSA. Instead, while acting in a fiduciary capacity as a representative payee, BROOKS embezzled more than $308,000 in SSA benefits funds from his disabled clients. In one case, BROOKS embezzled approximately $36,800 from an elderly, non-English speaking, disabled man. The victim had received a lump sum back payment of SSA benefits, but BROOKS never credited the payment to that victim’s account ledger. In another instance, BROOKS failed to pay the rent of one of his disabled clients and the client became homeless.

BROOKS used the money belonging to the disabled clients to pay for luxury cars, automobile accessories for his Navigator and his Lexus, twice yearly vacations to Jamaica’s “Club Hedonism,” private school tuition, Adult Friend Finder services, home mortgage payments, his company’s operating expenses, an Arco credit card, hypnotherapy training, and purchases of numerous items on E-bay.

In asking for a 70 month sentence, Special Assistant United States Attorney Johanna Vanderlee stated that representative payees request to be placed in a position of trust, and that BROOKS abused his position as a representative payee. His clients were vulnerable individuals, and rather than helping them, BROOKS embezzled their benefits. BROOKS was “responsible for assuring that his clients’ medical, shelter, food, clothing, and other daily needs were met. His clients were isolated, mentally disabled people who had no one upon whom they could rely to assist with their finances. The importance to the public and to SSA of having a responsible and trustworthy person to serve as a representative payee cannot be overstated,” Ms. Vanderlee wrote in her sentencing memo. The SSA will repay the losses to the clients, and therefore restitution paid by Brooks will go to repay the SSA.

The case was 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.

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