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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Fitchburg Woman Indicted For Social Security, MassHealth And Food Stamp Fraud

BOSTON – A Fitchburg woman was arrested yesterday and charged in federal court in Boston with fraudulently receiving Social Security disability benefits, MassHealth, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.    

Rhonda Bernal, 60, was charged with three counts of theft of public funds and two counts of making false statements. She appeared before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Jennifer Boal and was released on conditions. 

According to the indictment, over a period of approximately eight years, Bernal stole $71,462 in Social Security benefits, $6,444 in MassHealth benefits, and $13,505 in SNAP benefits (previously known as Food Stamps). In February 2015, she allegedly falsely informed the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance that she was the only person in her household when, in fact, she was living with her husband. In addition, Bernal allegedly falsely told Social Security in April 2016 that she and a relative, who was not her husband, were the only members of her household. 

The charges of theft of public funds provide for a sentence of no greater than 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. The charges of making false statements provide for a sentence of no greater than five 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; Scott Antolik, Special Agent in Charge of the Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Boston Field Division; Phillip M. Coyne, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Boston Regional Office; and Suzanne M. Bump, State Auditor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, made the announcement. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Burzycki of Lelling’s Major Crimes Unit is prosecuting the case.

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Updated July 31, 2019