Mingo County Woman Pleads Guilty to Theft of Military Death Benefits
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Jessica Horton, 53, of Matewan, pleaded guilty today to theft of government money. Horton admitted to stealing approximately $181,713.58 in United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) survivor’s benefits.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Horton’s great aunt was awarded VA Survivor’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits after the death of her husband in World War II. The great aunt began receiving the monthly benefits on May 1, 1945.
Beginning in or around 1964, the benefits were mailed to the great aunt’s post office box in Matewan. On February 21, 1999, Horton’s great aunt died, and the entitlement to benefits was therefore extinguished. Horton’s mother had access to the post office box. Horton admitted that her great aunt’s name was fraudulently signed on the benefits after the death to allow Horton’s mother to receive the benefits and convert them to her own use.
Horton’s mother fraudulently received the monthly benefits until her death on February 14, 2011. Following her mother’s death, Horton took over the post office box and began signing her great-aunt’s name in order to receive the monthly benefits. Horton admitted that she knew she was not entitled or authorized to sign her great aunt’s name on the benefits.
Horton deposited the benefits in various bank accounts at a Williamson bank where she was an account owner and signatory, and converted the money to her own use. Horton admitted that from around March 2011 until on or around December 31, 2022, she knowingly and willfully took approximately $181,713,58 in VA survivor’s benefits that she was not entitled or authorized to receive. The monthly benefits were terminated by the VA on or around January 12, 2023.
Horton is scheduled to be sentenced on September 21, 2023, and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,00 fine. Horton also owes $181,713.58 in restitution.
“My grandfather fought in World War II. The theft committed in this case is a slap in the face to those who earn these hard-fought-for benefits,” said United States Attorney Will Thompson. “That this fraud went on for as long as it did makes it all the more deplorable.”
Thompson made the announcement and commended the investigative work of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs-Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Senior United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr. presided over the hearing. Assistant United States Attorney Erik S. Goes is prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:23-cr-49.
Updated June 21, 2023