News and Press Releases

Lied for Years about Employment, Marriage and Assets to Collect Public Assistance

September 3, 2010

SHIRLEY JEAN NOBLE, 56, of Seattle, Washington, was sentenced today to 30 days in prison, four months of home confinement, three years of supervised release and $116,915 in restitution for defrauding multiple public assistance agencies including the Social Security Administration, the Seattle Housing Authority, and the Department of Social and Health Services. In imposing the prison term, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour noted that the fraud endured for a long period of time.

According to records filed in the case, in 1980 NOBLE applied for Social Security disability benefits (SSI) claiming she was 100 percent disabled from sickle cell anemia. NOBLE agreed to notify the agency if she was able to return to work. NOBLE never informed the agency that from 1987 to 2008, she was employed at her brother’s real estate firm earning approximately $42,000 a year. NOBLE married in 1990, but failed to disclose that to either the Social Security program or the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) from whom she received rent assistance. NOBLE falsely reported to the SHA that she was unmarried, and thereby funneled the SHA rent funds to her husband, who she falsely stated was her landlord. But the fraud didn’t end there. From June 2006 to January 2008, NOBLE applied for and received assistance under the DSHS Community Options Program Entry System (COPES) program, which provided her with housekeeping help worth more than $15,000.

Repeatedly, over the years, NOBLE claimed to be disabled and in need of assistance. In June of 2000, NOBLE falsely reported to Social Security that she had not worked in 20 years, but spent her days sleeping, reading, and taking medication. The investigation revealed that in October 2008, when an undercover SSA Office of Inspector General agent went to the real estate office, he met with NOBLE, who was vacuuming the office, and the agent received real estate advice and information from her.

From the various public assistance programs, between 2001 and 2008, NOBLE received more than $116,000 in benefits.

In asking for prison time Special Assistant United States Attorney Johanna Vanderlee wrote to the court that NOBLE “fraudulently concealed at least 20 years of work activity and physical capabilities from SSA. She also fraudulently concealed her work activity, income, resources, and household composition from HUD and DSHS. This type of decades long fraudulent scheme weakens the ability of DSHS, SSA, and HUD to provide benefits for truly low-income and disabled individuals.”

The case was investigated by Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG), the Seattle Housing Authority/Housing and Urban Development (SHA/HUD) and the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).

The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Johanna Vanderlee. Ms. Vanderlee is an attorney with the Social Security Administration, specially designated to prosecute benefit fraud cases in federal court.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.

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