Mingo County Woman Sentenced to Prison for 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, was sentenced today to four months in prison, four months of home detention, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $181,713.58 in restitution for theft of government money. Horton admitted to stealing 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.
“Month after month for more than a decade, this defendant knowingly and intentionally took money that was intended to aid veterans and their families,” said United States Attorney Will Thompson, the grandson of a World War II veteran. “Fraud of this nature worsens the strain on a vital support system at the expense of those families as well as the American taxpayers and their confidence in our government.”
This case originated from a referral from the Benefits Delivery Protection and Remediation (BDP&R) division of the VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration. Thompson also 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. imposed the sentence. Assistant United States Attorney Erik S. Goes prosecuted 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 October 5, 2023