Former Riverside Attorney Sentenced for Stealing Government Benefits

Had a jury convicted the former public defender of all counts as initially charged, she could have faced more than 10 years behind bars-- but a guilty plea changed that outcome.

A former Riverside County deputy public defender who collected her dead grandmother's Social Security benefits over a dozen years and spent the money herself was sentenced this week to a year in federal prison.

Audrey Gail Owens, 61, of Upland pleaded guilty in March to two counts of theft of government property. The plea was made directly to U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips. The U.S. Attorney's Office did not negotiate a deal.

Owens had been indicted on a total of five counts of theft of federal benefits. Phillips dismissed three counts on her own authority and imposed the minimum sentence.

Had a jury convicted the former public defender of all counts, she could have faced more than 10 years behind bars.

The defendant came to the attention of the Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration in the summer of 2012, after agents confirmed that SSA retirement insurance benefits had been deposited into a bank account shared by Owens and her grandmother, Pollie Gayden, who died in May 2000.

The total amount automatically deposited between 2000 and 2012 was $129,795; the account balance at the time of closure was $3,727, according to court papers.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the SSA ran a check on Gayden's status when records indicated she had exceeded 100 years of age. Benefits abruptly stopped in September 2012, when the government received a copy of the woman's death certificate.

Owens told investigators that she believed the money being deposited into the Kansas City bank account was from her father's veterans' benefits, not Social Security, court papers stated.

According to the defendant, she used the funds to cover health care- related expenses for her father, an Alzheimer's disease patient. However, she acknowledged also using the money "for her own needs, such as for rent and utility bills," according to court documents.

"She was only stopped when SSA began to suspect fraud; otherwise, the theft would have likely continued indefinitely and resulted in even greater losses," according to sentencing memorandum filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Yang.

Owens' father died in December 2006.

"She knew at the time that it was wrong to take and spend what she believed constituted (her father's) VA funds after his death; however, she did so anyway," according to court papers.

Investigators said the items for which Owens wrote a check out of the shared account included a $300 contribution to the Riverside County Employee Campaign, a booster for the roughly 18,000 people employed in county government.

Owens retired from the Office of the Public Defender last September.

– City News Service.

Chris June 04, 2014 at 04:35 PM
The National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) revealed to Breitbart Texas that the San Diego Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol is making plans to receive, process, and then release 500 illegal aliens into the U.S. per week who were shipped in from Texas, specifically from the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector. The specifics of how the illegal aliens are transported in unclear at this time, however, recently some have been flown at the tax-payers expense and some have been transported on buses. “The Murrieta Border Patrol Station of the San Diego Sector is not equipped to handle that type of influx of illegal aliens, both in terms of manpower and infrastructure,” said Shawn Moran, Vice President of the NBPC, in an exclusive interview with Breitbart Texas. The station is generally utilized as Border Patrol station, not a processing center. “Once processed, the illegal aliens will be given a court date and paperwork telling them when to report back,” said Moran. He acknowledged that most never do. Moran elaborated, “They will be released into a city that has no services to assist them, no shelters for them, or even a bus station.” Moran told Breitbart Texas, “According to information we have received, no one in the Border Patrol is even going to notify the City of Murrieta about this plan or the influx of illegal aliens they will receive.”
TSManning June 04, 2014 at 09:07 PM
Cut and paste. clever!
Helen Dawson June 05, 2014 at 11:52 AM
This story about thinking it was from her father's retirement benefits cannot possibly be true. She, at some point had to be checking the account statements. It would clearly show that the monies deposited were from SSA (Social Security Administration). While one may take into consideration that she was also caring for her sick, aged father, she certainly knew that the money was from Social Security.
Ken June 05, 2014 at 06:12 PM
I wonder if she had a public defender as her attorney? Wow SSI is right on the ball. It only took them 12 years to figure out the woman had died. Love those over paid government employees. And I can totally understand how a uneducated person like a public defender could mistakenly think that even though her father died 10 years ago that his VA benefits continue on till someone gets tired of spending the money and notifys the VA. Talk about a corny alibi. And only one year in jail for stealing $129,795 from Social Security? Who says crime don't pay? There must be a special criminal code written for public servants. They should deduct the money from the defendants Social Security Benefits.


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