Friday, September 26, 2008

Undocumented Immigrants Stealing Social Security Benefits?

That's sounds familiar to you. Well check this out. Buchanan County Auditor Susan Montee’s failure to audit the county administrator under investigation for embezzling $4 million in Social Security payments raises serious questions about whether Montee intentionally ignored the situation because of her political and personal relationship with the administrator.

The Associated Press reports that state investigators are questioning Bonnie
Sue Lawson in connection with the missing Social Security checks dating back to at least 2005 when complaints were first made to the state Department of Health and Senior Services. Montee, who has the authority to conduct an audit of the state administrator’s office, has received hundreds of dollars in political contributions from friend Lawson

The political and personal relationship between Susan Montee and Bonnie Sue Lawson raises serious questions about how millions of dollars in essential payments to elderly Buchanan County residents disappeared right under Montee’s nose,” said Paul Sloca, communications director for the Missouri Republican Party. “Susan Montee must come clean about her relationship with Bonnie Sue Lawson and the role it played in her failure as county auditor. This situation also raises serious issues about Montee’s competency and integrity as a candidate for state auditor.”

State investigators and St. Joseph police have seized computer equipment and other documents from Lawson’s office in a case that potentially affects hundreds of clients. Montee’s failure to monitor the activities of the county administrator is serious since administrators often serve as guardians, conservators, personal representatives and representative payees for certain citizens including minors, the mentally incompetent and the disabled.

Susan Montee failed to keep an eye on an individual who is entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of the finances for some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens,” Sloca said. “One has to wonder whether her personal and political relationship was more important to her than the citizens of Buchanan County.
Know John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a former Buchanan County, Mo., official pleaded guilty in federal court today to embezzling $118,000 from Social Security payments intended for dependent or disabled clients served by her office.
Bonnie Sue Lawson, 68, of St. Joseph, Mo., waived her right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner this afternoon to a federal information that charges her with stealing public money.
This former elected official abused the public’s trust and stole public money that was intended to assist the vulnerable clients who were dependent upon her,” Wood said.
Lawson served as Buchanan County Public Administrator from her election in 1996 until her resignation in August 2006. As Public Administrator, Lawson was appointed as the guardian for mentally impaired or developmentally disabled adults in instances where these adults had no one else who was willing to act on their behalf. Some of the clients under Lawson’s care received Social Security Administration benefits on a monthly basis. Lawson, who was appointed by the Social Security Administration as the representative payee for clients who were identified as either physically or mentally unable to handle their own financial affairs, established separate bank accounts where the Social Security funds were deposited. Lawson maintained control over the accounts.
By pleading guilty
today, Lawson admitted that, from Sept. 1, 2003, to Aug. 21, 2006, she embezzled funds from these accounts for her own use.
Lawson accomplished her embezzlement by generating checks payable to herself under the guise that the proceeds were to pay her fees. The checks or embezzled monies were above and beyond any legitimate payments due to Lawson as representative payee. Lawson then altered the accounting records, maintained electronically, in her Public Administrator’s office in order to conceal her embezzlement. Lawson also concealed her embezzlement by submitting false and fraudulent reports to the Social Security Administration.
Approximately 120 separate client accounts were identified by investigators as having been embezzled by Lawson. Investigators also calculated an aggregate loss figure of approximately $118,000 from Lawson’s embezzlement activities. This sum represents Social Security payments intended for the use and care of dependant or disabled clients.
Under federal statutes, Lawson is subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
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