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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 15, 2015

Arlington, Texas, Woman Sentenced To 33 Months In Federal Prison For Stealing Social Security And VA Benefits Belonging To Her Deceased Parents

DALLAS — An Arlington, Texas, woman, who admitted stealing retirement insurance benefits and veterans’ benefits from her deceased parents, was sentenced today, announced John Parker, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.

Latasha Smith, a/k/a Latasha Matthews, 34, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John McBryde to 33 months in federal prison and ordered to pay a total of $143,403 in restitution to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Judge McBryde ordered that she surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on June 5, 2015.

According to documents filed in the case, Smith’s father, Paul Smith, died in December 1989, and at the time of his death, he was receiving SSA Title II Retirement Insurance benefits under the name of Barney Smith, an alias identity with a different Social Security number. Although the SSA was notified that Paul Smith died, it did not recognize Barney Smith as an alias identity, and it continued to pay benefits to Barney Smith.

From December 1989 through December 2008, Mary Smith, Paul/Barney Smith’s wife, received and used these Social Security benefits for her personal use. As Paul Smith’s surviving spouse, she also applied for and was approved to receive VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits. While Mary Smith’s use of the SSA benefits constituted theft, she was a legitimate recipient of the VA benefits.

When Mary Smith died in December 2008, she was no longer entitled to any additional VA benefits. The SSA benefits she had been receiving were directly deposited into a joint bank account held by Barney and Mary Smith. The VA benefits were directly deposited into a joint bank account held by Paul and Mary Smith.

Latasha Smith had access to both accounts after her mother’s death. She admitted that she transferred the SSA funds into the account holding the VA funds and then subsequently cashed checks written to her, or her husband, drawn on that account and also used an ATM card to electronically withdraw funds from the account.

The SSA’s Office of the Inspector General, with assistance from the VA’s Office of Inspector General investigated. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Dana prosecuted.

Component(s): 
Updated June 22, 2015