UPDATE: Sentencing Delayed for Former Martin Mayor, Daughter

By: WSAZ News Staff Email
By: WSAZ News Staff Email

UPDATE 7/17/14
PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WSAZ) -- The sentencing hearing for former Martin Mayor Ruth Thomasine Robinson and her daughter, Christine Whicker was delayed to October during a hearing on Wednesday.

In February, Robinson, 69 and Whicker, 42, were found guilty on all counts in their federal Social Security fraud trial.

The pair will now be sentenced on October 7 in U.S. District Court in Pikeville, according to court officials. Robinson will also be sentenced that day on an unrelated federal vote-buying conviction.

According to a published report, the delay is over how much in restitution the pair will be required to repay.

During the trial, all charges against Ethel Clouse were dismissed in a motion by the U.S. Attorney.

A fourth co-defendant, Ginger Halbert pleaded guilty to conspiracy, federal program fraud and aggravated identity theft. She was sentenced to two years and one day last month.

Whicker was the former director of the Martin Community Center. Halbert was a volunteer city employee.

The four were indicted in October 2013.

The jury convicted Robinson and Whicker on all eight counts, including counts of conspiracy, federal program fraud, theft of social security disability benefits and aggravated identity theft.

From 2006 until January 2013, Halbert was purportedly working on a volunteer basis, but was secretly being paid with federal funds.

The funds used to pay Halbert were intended for the Martin Community Center and the Martin Housing Authority. Some of the misdirected money was supposed to fund an after school program for city children.

To conceal the scheme, the defendants allegedly arranged for the checks to be made payable to Halbert’s son. Evidence further established that Halbert, who was receiving social security disability benefits, intentionally failed to notify SSA of her earned income from the city of Martin.



UPDATE 2/26/14 @ 11 a.m.
PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WSAZ) -- Former Martin Mayor Ruth Thomasine Robinson, 69, and her daughter, Christine Whicker, have been found guilty on all counts in their federal Social Security fraud trial.

All charges against Ethel Clouse were dismissed in a motion by the U.S. Attorney, according to court officials.

Whicker, 42, is the former director of the Martin Community Center, while Clouse, 68, was a bookkeeper for the city.

The trial for the three women began Monday in U.S. District Court in Pikeville.

The jury handed down the verdict after deliberating 2 hours Tuesday night.

A fourth co-defendant, Ginger Halbert pleaded guilty last Friday to conspiracy, federal program fraud and aggravated identity theft. Halbert was a volunteer city employee.

The four were indicted in October 2013.

Specifically, the jury convicted Robinson and Whicker on all eight counts, including counts of conspiracy, federal program fraud, theft of social security disability benefits and aggravated identity theft..

Evidence at trial established that, from 2006 until January 2013, Halbert was purportedly working on a volunteer basis, but was secretly being paid with federal funds.

The funds used to pay Halbert were intended for the Martin Community Center and the Martin Housing Authority. Some of the misdirected money was supposed to fund an after school program for city children.

To conceal the scheme, the defendants allegedly arranged for the checks to be made payable to Halbert’s son. Evidence further established that Halbert, who was receiving social security disability benefits, intentionally failed to notify SSA of her earned income from the city of Martin.

Under federal law, anyone who receives disability benefits is limited in the amount of money that they can receive from another source and all income must be reported to the SSA, so it can properly determine eligibility for benefits.

Robinson and Whicker will sentenced in July. Halbert is scheduled to be sentenced in June.

The conspiracy offense carries a maximum of 5 years in prison; misappropriating money from a federal program carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison; and aggravated identity theft has a mandatory minimum penalty of two years in prison.

There is no word why the charges against Clouse were dismissed.

In December, Halbert and Robinson and several others were indicted on separate federal vote-buying and civil rights conspiracy charges. This case is set to go to trial next month



ORIGINAL STORY 1/24/13
PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WSAZ) – The federal Social Security fraud trial for the former Mayor of Martin, Ky. and two other people, gets underway with jury selection Monday morning.

The trial for Ruth Thomasine Robinson, her daughter Rita Christine Whicker, who formerly directed the Martin Community Center, and Ethel Lee Clouse, a bookkeeper for the city, is taking place in U.S. District Court in Pikeville. Jury selection was set to begin at 9 a.m.

A fourth co-defendant, Ginger Michelle Halbert, 42, of Martin, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy, federal program fraud and aggravated identity theft.

The four were indicted in October 2013.

According to the U.S. Attorney, all four women are charged with conspiracy to defraud the Social Security Administration, theft of social security benefits and aggravated identity theft.

Whicker and Robinson are also charged with misappropriating money from a federal program.

In December, Halbert and Robinson and several others were indicted on separate federal vote-buying and civil rights conspiracy charges.

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