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Justice News

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

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Family Members Arrested on Federal Charges

Allegedly Feigned Mental Illness to Receive Social Security Benefits

DALLAS — Four members of an Arlington, Texas, family were arrested earlier this week on charges outlined in a federal criminal complaint, unsealed late yesterday, stemming from their alleged conspiracy to defraud the Social Security Administration (SSA) by feigning mental illnesses to fraudulently collect Social Security benefits, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.

Charged in the criminal complaint are Doreen Mitchell, 53, and her two sons, Michael Mitchell, 29, and Sonny Mitchell, 27, and her cousin, John Mitchell, a/k/a “Patrick Rena,” 58.  Each defendant made an initial appearance in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Stickney, who ordered that all four remain in custody pending detention hearings set for tomorrow, Friday, October 2, 2015, and Monday, October 5, 2015.

According to the complaint, beginning in 1978 and continuing through the present, Doreen Mitchell, John Mitchell, Michael Mitchel and Sonny Mitchell conspired together to conceal, or fail to disclose, the true activity level and medical condition of Doreen Mitchell, Michael Mitchell and Sonny Mitchell, which would have affected each person’s continued entitlement to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.  This was done to secure benefits in a greater amount or quantity than was due or when no such benefit was authorized.

The SSA’s ability to determine an applicant’s medical and financial eligibility for the SSI program is directly dependent upon the SSA’s access to accurate and current information regarding that applicant.  If an applicant is initially found to be eligible, and therefore becomes an SSI recipient, the SSA’s ability to determine that recipient’s continuing eligibility, and the correct monthly benefit due that recipient, is directly dependent upon the SSA’s ongoing access to accurate and current information regarding that recipient.  The SSA requires disabled SSI recipients to advise the SSA of any improvements in their medical condition, their return to work of any kind, and any changes in their income, resources, address, living arrangements, family size or composition, or family income or resources.

Over the 37-year period beginning in 1978 and continuing to the present, SSA paid and continues to pay SSI benefits each month to Doreen Mitchell, Michael Mitchell and Sonny Mitchell.  As of August 31, 2015, the SSA has paid approximately $461,913 in benefits based on the representation that these three individuals were disabled.

A federal complaint is a written statement of the essential facts of the offenses charged and must be made under oath before a magistrate judge.  The government has 30 day to present the matter to a federal grand jury for indictment.  A defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.  The maximum statutory penalty for this offense as charged is five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. 

The SSA’s Office of the Inspector General/Cooperative Disability Investigations Unit is investigating.   Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Dana is in charge of the prosecution.

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Updated October 1, 2015