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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, December 8, 2014

Okeechobee County Woman Pleads Guilty to Social Security Fraud Charges

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Thomas Caul, Special Agent in Charge, Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG), announce that Brenda Harden, 56, of Okeechobee, Florida, pled guilty today to charges of embezzlement and theft of government monies, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641.

According to statements made in open court and documents filed in the case, Harden is the daughter of the late Mary Beard, who died on November 20, 2012. Harden had a joint checking bank account with her mother, and she continued to withdraw and spend her mother’s social security widow’s survivor benefits, when they continued to be paid every month following Beard’s death. Until the discovery of the overpayments by the Social Security Administration, which ended all payments in April 2014, Harden had taken and spent for herself a total of $24,499.

Sentencing is scheduled for February 13, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg in Fort Pierce. At sentencing, Harden faces a possible maximum statutory sentence of up to ten years in prison.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the SSA-OIG. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore Cooperstein.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Updated March 18, 2015