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Press Release

Inland Empire Attorney Pleads Guilty To Ripping Off Social Security

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

RIVERSIDE, California – A deputy public defender for Riverside County pleaded guilty today to two felony counts of stealing social security benefits.

Audrey Owens, 60, of Upland, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft of government property before United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips.

Owens pleaded guilty one week before she was scheduled to go on trial to two of the five counts contained in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in July. There was no plea agreement in this case.

According to documents filed in United States District Court, Owens diverted social security benefits intended for her deceased grandmother, who died in May 2000. The scheme started soon after Owens’ grandmother died and continued until
August 2012.

After her grandmother’s death, Owens changed the address of a joint account she shared with her grandmother and continued to receive social security payments intended for her grandmother. She transferred some of the social security payments into her own personal account to pay bills. She also used some of the social security payments to directly pay for her personal expenses, including contributions to the Riverside County Employee Campaign.

Owens illegally received more than $129,000 during the course of the scheme.

Judge Phillips scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 2. At that time, Owens will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

The case against Owens was investigated by the Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General.

Release No. 14-028

Updated June 22, 2015