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PIKEVILLE, KY -A former mayor of Martin, KY., and her daughter, have been convicted on all counts by a federal jury of charges related to a scheme to defraud the Social Security Administration (SSA) and to misapply federal funds.
On Tuesday night, the jury convicted former Martin Mayor Ruth Thomasine Robinson, 69, and her daughter, Rita Christine Whicker, 42, who formerly directed the Martin Community Center. The verdict was handed down after approximately two hours of deliberation following two days of trial. Specifically, the jury convicted the defendants on a total of eight counts of conspiracy, federal program fraud, theft of social security disability benefits and aggravated identity theft. Ginger Michelle Halbert, 42, a volunteer city employee who worked closely with Robinson, pled guilty last week to a charge of theft of government money. Charges against Ethel Clouse, the city bookkeeper, were dismissed at trial.
Evidence at trial established that from 2006 until January 2013, Halbert, who purportedly worked on a volunteer basis, was secretly being paid with federal funds. The funds used to pay Halbert were intended for the Martin Community Center and the Martin Housing Authority. Some of the money was supposed to fund an after school program for city children. To conceal the scheme, the defendants allegedly arranged for the checks to be made payable to Halbert’s son.
Evidence further established that Halbert, who was receiving social security disability benefits, intentionally failed to notify SSA of her earned income from the city of Martin. Under federal law, anyone who receives disability benefits is limited in the amount of money he or she can receive from another source and all income must be reported to the SSA so it can properly determine eligibility for benefits.
Kerry B. Harvey, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Perrye Turner, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Guy Fallen, Special Agent in Charge, Social Security Administration, Office of the Investigator General, Office of Investigations, and Jack Conway, Attorney General of Kentucky, jointly made the announcement today.
The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Social Security Administration, and the Attorney General’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Taylor is prosecuting this case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office on behalf of the federal government.
Sentencing for Robinson and Whicker is scheduled for July 9, 2014. Halbert is scheduled for sentencing on June 6, 2014. The conspiracy offense carries a maximum of 5 years in prison; misappropriating money from a federal program carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and aggravated identity theft has a mandatory minimum penalty of two years in prison.