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Press Release

Cambridge Woman Pleads Guilty to Stealing Social Security and SNAP Benefits

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

BOSTON – A Cambridge woman pleaded guilty today to stealing over $80,000 in Social Security and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.     

Phaedra M. Sheets, 45, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft of public funds. In February 2020, Sheets was charged by indictment and arrested.  Sentencing has been scheduled for December 17, 2020.

Sheets’ mother was receiving Social Security benefits and SNAP benefits at the time of her death in November 2009. Her death was never reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA) nor to the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, and the agencies continued to pay monthly benefits on her behalf. When SSA attempted to contact Sheets’ mother to perform a review of her benefits claim, Sheets posed as her mother and directed SSA to deposit her mother’s benefits into various bank accounts, from which Sheets withdrew the funds.  Sheets also impersonated her deceased mother in interactions with the Department of Transitional Assistance and used her mother’s SNAP card to make purchases for nearly nine years after her death. 

From December 2009 to September 2018, Sheets stole approximately $71,636 in Social Security benefits and approximately $13,923 in SNAP benefits.

The charge of theft of public funds provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Tonya Perkins, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Boston Field Division; and Suzanne M. Bump, State Auditor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts made the announcement today. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Burzycki of Lelling’s Major Crimes Unit is prosecuting the case.

Updated September 16, 2020