Broward Resident Found Guilty of Stealing Deceased Grandparents’ Social Security Funds
After a three-day trial, a federal jury today convicted a Broward County resident of stealing social security benefits years after her grandparents died.
Benjamin G. Greenberg, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Margaret Moore-Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG), made the announcement.
Myriam Etienne, 49, of Pompano Beach, was convicted of ninety counts of theft of government funds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641. Senior U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn presided over the trial. The defendant’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 5, 2018 at 9:30 a.m. At sentencing, the defendant faces up to ten years imprisonment on each count, a $250,000 fine as to each count and restitution.
According to evidence presented at trial, Etienne received Social Security Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits for her grandparents since 2004. The Social Security Administration administers numerous programs to provide for the material needs of individuals and their families, including SSI. SSI is a federal program that provides assistance to lower income individuals to meet basic food, shelter, medical and clothing needs. Monthly SSI benefits are paid to eligible individuals.
The evidence presented at trial revealed that these benefits were paid to the defendant’s grandmother and grandfather and the defendant controlled their funds as a representative payee. The SSI funds were direct deposited into a joint bank account the defendant shared with her deceased grandparents. The trial evidence revealed that the defendant’s grandfather died in Haiti in 2006 and the defendant’s grandmother died in Haiti in 2009. The defendant, however, kept receiving their SSI benefits and did not report the deaths to the Social Security Administration.
The evidence showed that the defendant signed representative payee accounting records, years after their deaths, verifying that the SSI money was being utilized for her grandparents food, shelter, clothing and medical treatment. After her grandmother’s and grandfather’s deaths, the defendant received approximately over $130,000 in SSI payments. The evidence at trial further revealed that the defendant made several mortgage payments and additional payments on her BMW X6 vehicle utilizing the SSI funds direct deposited into the joint account.
Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the SSA-OIG, the U.S. Department of State and the FBI’s Legal Attaché in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Katz.