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Press Release

St. Albans Man Pleads Guilty to Theft of Social Security Income Benefits

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Joseph McLaughlin entered a guilty plea to the felony offense of fraudulently obtaining Social Security Administration benefits, announced United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  McLaughlin, 38, of  St. Albans, West Virginia faces up to 5 years of incarceration when he is sentenced on May 7, 2019.  He will also be required to pay restitution to the United States Treasury.  The investigation was conducted by the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Social Security Administration. 

“Fraudsters that rip off social security get no sympathy from me,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “Many seniors rely on social security and a strained system is only more strained when illegal benefits are wrongfully claimed. McLaughlin stole more than $121,000 in social security benefits.  This is a terrible story of greed and entitlement and it just goes to prove that it only takes one bad apple to ruin an orchard.”

McLaughlin applied for Title II Social Security Administration benefits in 2007 for the care of a child as the child’s representative payee.  These Social Security representative payee benefits are based on income and living arrangements and create a duty on the recipient to report a change in living arrangements.  There is also a requirement that the SSA money received actually be used for the well-being of the child.  McLaughlin indicated that the child resided with him and he used the SSA benefits for the child’s care.  In fact, McLaughlin’s child had moved out in 2011 and was no longer residing with him.  The absence of the child would have ended the amount of money he was receiving every month from the Social Security Administration as the child’s representative payee.  From April 2011 through February 2017, McLaughlin  received at least $121,436 in Social Security benefits in excess of the amount he was due and that were not spent on the child. On August 15, 2017, McLaughlin  gave a detailed statement to federal investigators with the OIG.  McLaughlin admitted that he was receiving money that he was not entitled to receive and that the child had moved out of the home in 2011.

Assistant United States Attorney Erik S. Goes handled the prosecution.  United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. presided over the hearing.


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Updated February 5, 2019