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UPDATE: Former Martin Ky. Mayor and Other Workers Plead Not Guilty

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

Martin City Workers Indictment

UPDATE 11/5/13 @ 7:45 p.m.
FLOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- The former Mayor of Martin, and three other women, accused in a federal fraud scheme, have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Tuesday, former Mayor Ruth Thomasine Robinson, 69, her daughter Rita Christine Whicker, 42, who formerly directed the Martin Community Center, Ginger Michelle Halbert, 42, a volunteer city employee, and Ethel Lee Clouse, 68, a bookkeeper for the city, were in federal court in Pikeville.

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.

Halbert, Whicker and Robinson are also charged with misappropriating money from a federal program. Halbert also faces one count of knowingly failing to report her employment and earnings to the Social Security Administration.

The women pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

According to the indictment, from 2006 to January 2013, Halbert, who worked as a volunteer without pay for city, was secretly being paid with federal funds that were to be used for an after-school program at the Martin Community Center.

Investigators say to hide the scheme, the women were arranging for checks to be made out to Halbert's son. Prosecutors say Halbert would then endorse those checks without his knowledge.

The indictment says at the same time, Halbert was receiving social security benefits and did not notify SSA of the income she was receiving from the checks.

Tuesday, Thomasine Robinson's step-son, James Robinson, was also in court. He is charged with retaliation against two of the witnesses in his step-mother's case.

James Robinson's attorney argued there was not enough evidence to support the claims, but the judge ruled there was probable cause for the charges to stand.

All four women are scheduled to go on trial January 6 in Pikeville.

James Robinson's next hearing is November 19 in Lexington.

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UPDATE 10/28/13
FLOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) --The step-son of the former Martin mayor, now under federal investigation for alleged Social Security fraud, has been arrested for allegedly threatening witnesses in the investigation.

Agents with the FBI and Kentucky Attorney General's Office arrested James "Stevie" Robinson late Friday afternoon in Floyd County.

"He is charged with retaliation against a witness in the federal investigation that's been ongoing in Martin for the past year. He is also charged with wanton endangerment for his efforts to attempt to bring harm to a witness in that same investigation," says Floyd County Attorney Keith Bartley.

Last week a federal grand jury in Pikeville indicted former Martin Mayor Ruth Thomasine Robinson, 69, her daughter Rita Christine Whicker, 42, who formerly directed the Martin Community Center, Ginger Michelle Halbert, 42, a volunteer city employee, and Ethel Lee Clouse, 68, a bookkeeper for the city.

The nine count indictment accuses the four of misusing federal money and participating in a scheme to defraud the Social Security Administration

Bartley says it is clear the attempt by James “Stevie” Robinson was to also prevent even more information from coming out in what is still an ongoing investigation.

"These efforts by Stevie Robinson are aimed at preventing witnesses from testifying not only in this case but in any others that come from this investigation, and I think there will be others," said Barley. "I think Mr. Robinson will find this was even more serious because you have an ongoing joint investigation between the FBI and Kentucky Attorney General's Office and they are simply not going to stand by and let people attempt to influence what witnesses are going to say or what they are going to do in that investigation. That is why Mr. Robinson finds himself in jail this morning"

Last November, James “Stevie” Robinson's father, James Robinson, was arrested and charged with menacing and terroristic threatening. Prosecutors say he made alleged threats to current Martin Mayor Sam Howell, after Howell defeated Robinson's wife, Thomasine, in last year's election.

James “Stevie” Robinson is being held in the Floyd County Detention Center on $500,000 cash bond. He is currently on probation and parole for being convicted of a federal crime in another state.

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UPDATE 10/25/13 .
MARTIN, Ky. (WSAZ) – Several city leaders in Martin, Ky. are reacting to this week’s federal indictment of a former mayor and three other women on Social Security fraud charges.

Former Mayor Ruth Thomasine Robinson, 69, her daughter Rita Christine Whicker, 42, who formerly directed the Martin Community Center, Ginger Michelle Halbert, 42, a volunteer city employee, and Ethel Lee Clouse, 68, a bookkeeper for the city, face various charges in the nine count indictment out of U.S. District Court in Pikeville.

The nine count indictment accuses the four of misusing federal money and participating in a scheme to defraud the Social Security Administration

"It's kind of shocking," Martin City Councilman James Reynolds said. "It kind of gives the town a black eye."

Robinson was voted out of office by three votes in November 2012.

If convicted, they could spend at least two years in prison on each count.

"It is what it is," Reynolds said. "It's a terrible situation. I hate it for all parties involved. But if they did everything it says they were indicted for, they're like anyone else, they'll have to pay for their crimes."

The indictment casts the town in a bad light, city leaders said.

"I feel bad for the city," said former Martin Mayor Alan Whicker. "I feel bad for all the people involved in it. And if the charges are true and they are found guilty, then they should face the punishment that is handed down to them."

The four women will be arraigned Nov. 5 in federal court in Pikeville.

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ORIGINAL STORY 10/24/13 @ 1:30 p.m.
FLOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- A former Mayor of Martin, Kentucky, her daughter, and two other city employees have been indicted on federal Social Security fraud charges.

Former Martin Mayor Ruth Thomasine Robinson, 69, her daughter Rita Christine Whicker, 42, who formerly directed the Martin Community Center, Ginger Michelle Halbert, 42, a volunteer city employee, and Ethel Lee Clouse, 68, a bookkeeper for the city, face various charges in the nine count indictment out of U.S. District Court in Pikeville.

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.

Halbert, Whicker and Robinson are also charged with misappropriating money from a federal program. Halbert also faces one count of knowingly failing to report her employment and earnings to the Social Security Administration.

According to the indictment, from 2006 to January 2013, Halbert, who worked as a volunteer without pay for city, was secretly being paid with federal funds that were to be used for an after-school program at the Martin Community Center.

Investigators say to hide the scheme, the women were arranging for checks to be made out to Halbert's son. Prosecutors say Halbert would then endorse those checks without his knowledge.

The indictment says at the same time, Halbert was receiving social security benefits and did not notify SSA of the income she was receiving from the checks.

According to the indictment, Halbert received $72,000 that she not was entitled to through SSA.

If convicted, the women face possible prison time, fines and forfeiture of property they allegedly obtained with these proceeds.

The defendants will be in court on November 5.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.


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