UPDATE 4/9/13 @ 11:47 a.m.
COVINGTON, Ky. (WSAZ) -- Six eastern Kentucky residents pleaded guilty to defrauding state and federal benefit programs out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
According to plea agreements filed in federal court, Diana Lynn Rice, 66, of Webbville, Ky., Ila Jean Rose, 57, of Olive Hill, Ky., Granvell Windfred Ramey, 73, of Catlettsburg, Ky., Junia Kay Ratliff, 66, of West Liberty, Ky., Randall Dale Ratliff, 74, of West Liberty, Ky.\ and Linda Lou Tackett, 73, of Grayson, Ky., pleaded guilty to charges Monday.
The six, according to a news release, from Carter, Boyd, Lawrence and Morgan Counties, pleaded guilty, in separate cases, to charges related to SSI fraud. One of the women also pleaded guilty to an additional charge of aggravated identity theft.
In their plea agreements, the defendants admitted they fraudulently obtained benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), and in some instances from the Medicaid Program, by concealing and intentionally failing to disclose their true living arrangements and financial resources.
As far back as 1998 in one case, some of the defendants lied to SSA agents, telling the agents that they had divorced or separated from their spouses when in fact they were living together and sharing living expenses, according to a news release.
In one case, a woman even forged the signature of her husband to further the scheme, according to the release. Collectively, the defendants defrauded the SSA and the Medicaid Program out of nearly $450,000.
Had the defendants’ provided the SSA with their true living arrangements and financial resources, the defendants would have either been ineligible for SSI and Medicaid benefits or their eligibility would have been greatly reduced, according to the release. SSI is an income assistance program designed to provide financial assistance to elderly and disabled individuals who meet the program’s eligibility requirements.
Kentuckians who are eligible for SSI also qualify for benefits under the Medicaid Program.
The investigation was conducted by the SSA, Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Nasson represents the U.S. Attorney’s Office in this case.
Sentencing dates have not been announced. Supplemental Security Income Fraud carries a maximum of five years in prison upon conviction. Aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory two years in prison upon conviction.
Federal prosecutors are charging the eight with fraudulently collecting money and benefits from federal and state assistance programs, for more than a decade in some cases.
An additional man was charged only with making false statements related to alleged.
According to the indictments, the defendants fraudulently obtained the benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Medicaid by concealing and intentionally failing to disclose their true living arrangements and financial resources.
The indictments say many of the defendants told SSA agents they were divorced or separated from their spouses, when in fact they were living together and sharing living expenses.
Prosecutors say if the SSA had known the defendants’ true living arrangements and financial resources, they would have been ineligible for SSI and Medicaid benefits, or their eligibility would have been greatly reduced.
The names of the defendants have not been released. None are in federal custody at this time.
If convicted, the defendants face up to five years in prison for the SSI charge and 10 years on the health care fraud charge.
SSI is a cash assistance program designed to provide financial assistance to disabled and elderly people who have little or no income or resources.