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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Nevada Woman Sentenced for Stealing Deceased Mother's Social Security Benefits

PORTLAND, Ore. – On Monday, September 12, 2016, the daughter of a deceased Social Security beneficiary was sentenced to probation for stealing more than $48,000 of benefits mistakenly paid to her mother following her death. Michelle Lee Cox, 43, pled guilty to theft of government funds in May, and was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Simon on Monday to five years’ probation.

According to court records, Cox’s mother was receiving Social Security benefits at the time of her death in 2009, at the age of 70. The mother’s death was properly recorded in government records, but Treasury checks continued to be mailed each month to the residence the mother shared with Cox. Cox deposited the checks to an account she had jointly owned with her mother and converted the funds to her own use. When Cox moved to Nevada in 2013, she directed the Social Security Administration (SSA) to electronically deposit the benefits to the bank account.

Among Cox’s conditions of probation were several financial conditions and the requirement that Cox participate in a mental health treatment program approved by her probation officer. Cox was also ordered to pay full restitution to the SSA in the amount of $48,700, and to perform 200 hours of community service.

The case was investigated by the SSA Office of the Inspector General, Office of Investigations, and was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Helen Cooper as part of a partnership venture between the SSA Seattle Region, SSA Office of the General Counsel, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland, Oregon.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Component(s): 
Updated September 13, 2016