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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 26, 2016

Topsham Couple Sentenced to Five Months for Social Security Fraud

Contact: Halsey B. Frank
Assistant United States Attorney
Tel: (207) 780-3257

Portland, Maine:  United States Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty II announced that Thomas Gerken, 63, and Jill Gerken, 62, of Topsham, Maine were sentenced today in U.S. District Court by Chief Judge Nancy Torresen to five months in prison and three years of supervised release (the first five months of which is to be served on home detention) for conspiracy to defraud the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) by diverting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  SSI benefits are paid to people who are blind, disabled or elderly and whose income is below specified levels and are to be used to pay for the needs of the beneficiary. The Gerkens were also ordered to pay $98,830 in restitution.

According to court records, the defendants are the parents of two disabled children.  In 2004, on the basis of those disabilities, the defendants applied for and were granted SSI benefits for the children.  Jill Gerken was designated as the representative payee for each child.  As such, she was required to use the funds for their benefit, to annually account for her expenditure of the funds, and to periodically submit information to SSA to allow SSA to determine whether the children remained eligible for benefits.

Between January 2007 and July 2013, during a period of time that the children resided on a full-time basis at an assisted living facility, the defendants diverted SSI benefits and used them to pay for household expenses, including, but not limited to, their mortgage, a home equity loan, utilities, groceries, travel, restaurant meals and books. Over that period of time, they also failed to pay the assisted living facility even though Jill Gerken falsely certified to SSA each year that she spent the SSI benefits on food and housing at the assisted living facility.

In pronouncing sentence, Judge Torresen described the Gerkens as greedy and said that a period of incarceration was necessary to reflect the seriousness of their offense, promote respect for law and provide adequate deterrence.

Scott Antolik, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Boston Division of the SSA’s Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations (“OIG”) stated that "representative payee fraud is an egregious offense, not only because it involves the misuse of Social Security funds, but because it affects some of the most vulnerable members of society who cannot manage their own affairs,"  "The SSA OIG is committed to upholding the integrity of Social Security's programs and protecting its beneficiaries, and our office is grateful to work with partners like the U.S. Attorney's Office in Maine in these efforts."

The investigation was conducted by the SSA’s OIG’s Office of Investigations.

Component(s): 
Updated September 27, 2016