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Justice News

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

Friday, June 14, 2013

Antonio Mathias Peterson Sentenced In U.S. District Court

The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Helena, on June 13, 2013, before Senior U.S. District Judge Charles C. Lovell, ANTONIO MATHIAS PETERSON, a 30-year-old resident of East Helena, was sentenced to a term of:

Prison: 15 months

Special Assessment: $100

Restitution: $63,410

Supervised Release: 3 years

PETERSON was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to social security fraud.

In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan R. Whittaker, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

Beginning on April 8, 2008, and continuing into December 2011, PETERSON ed and failed to disclose that he had been convicted of a felony offense and that his son was not in his care and custody.

On April 8, 2008, PETERSON applied for surviving spouse with child in care benefits. He also applied for auxiliary survivor benefits on behalf of his minor son, AP, and to be his representative payee. The claims were based on the death of his spouse Kelli Renee Peterson. PETERSON made false statements regarding his and AP's living arrangements.

On April 13, 2008, the SSA sent PETERSON a "Notice of Award" letter designating PETERSON as the representative payee for AP's benefits and awarding his parent in care benefits. Accompanying the letter were two SSA pamphlets entitled "What you need to know when you get retirement or survivors benefits" and "A Guide for Representative Payees." The letter and pamphlets clearly explained PETERSON's legal reporting responsibilities regarding events affecting eligibility to payments.

PETERSON began receiving auxiliary survivor benefits for AP and for himself as a surviving spouse with a child in care, paid retroactively from March 2008 through December 2011.

On September 25, 2009, October 28, 2009, and September 22, 2010, PETERSON completed and signed various Social Security forms stating that AP resided with him and he used all the SSA benefit money for AP. But AP actually resided with his grandparents during the specified periods.

Agents interviewed the grandmother who stated that she had custody of AP since March 2008. She paid AP's living and healthcare expenses. AP was enrolled in school with the grandparents as the primary points of contact. The grandparents never received any financial support from PETERSON for AP. The grandmother was unaware that PETERSON was receiving Social Security benefits on behalf of AP.

On March 12, 2009, the grandparents were appointed as legal guardians of AP by the First Judicial District Court, Lewis & Clark County.

In December 2010, PETERSON was arrested for felony DUI and was incarcerated from 12/22/10 to 6/20/2011. PETERSON did not report this event to the SSA.

Agents interviewed PETERSON at his residence and he acknowledged his Social Security benefits application and admitted that he understood his legal reporting requirements to the SSA for events affecting eligibility to benefits. These included the custody and living arrangements of AP and his prior incarceration. He admitted that he knew he was required to report these events because they might affect his eligibility for continued SSA payments. PETERSON also estimated that the grandparents had custody of AP at least 70% of the time and he would take AP sometimes on weekends.

In approximately August 2008, PETERSON purchased a house in East Helena, and used AP's benefits to pay the mortgage payments.

AP's change in living arrangements, change in address, and PETERSON's incarceration were events required to be reported to the SSA because these events would affect his eligibility for benefits. PETERSON's failure to report resulted in an overpayment of Social Security benefits to which PETERSON would not have otherwise been entitled.

Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that PETERSON will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, PETERSON does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for "good behavior." However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.

The investigation was conducted by the Social Security Administration - Office of Inspector General.

Updated January 14, 2015