It’s not every day someone is convicted of committing fraud against two major government programs at the same time. In Fort Smith, Arkansas, a woman named Carolyn Faye Summerhill pled guilty and was convicted of fraud against both the Social Security Administration and the Food and Drug Administration’s WIC program. She will be sentenced at a later date, but will face up to 10 years in prison in addition to being forced to pay back over $200,000 to the SSA, the WIC program, as well as several banks.
Summerhill first started receiving Social Security disability benefits in 2001 for a ruptured cervical disc, which she claimed and sufficiently proved made her unable to work and therefore eligible for disability benefits. Eight years later, in 2009, she was still receiving benefits, having continued to verify on a yearly basis that her disability and employment status had not changed.
She may have continued receiving benefits had she not been caught forging a $100 check against her sister’s account in December of 2009. When her sister reported it, police identified Summerhill through the bank’s surveillance system and verified her signature on the forged check. The following April, she was sentenced with fines.
Shortly after this, the Social Security Administration began investigating Summerhill’s disability status, and discovered that she was co-owner of a store called Sebastian County Nutrition, located in Fort Smith. From 2001 to 2009 she worked as a cashier and stocker for the store, and earned wages while collecting over $95,000 in Social Security disability checks.
With all this fraudulent activity being aired, the Food and Drug Administration, who administer the WIC child nutrition program, decided to investigate WIC voucher checks received by Summerhill’s store. They found that between 2006 and 2007, she had stolen a total of $133,500 from the WIC program by inflating the amounts of the checks due to the store.
Needless to say, Summerhill will face severe sentencing for stealing such large amounts of money from two government programs. She at least had the good sense to confess and plead guilty to her crimes, which will be considered during her sentencing.
Because of the increasing financial strain on the Social Security Administration, it is becoming more important to find and convict criminals like Summerhill. The prevalence of Social Security fraud cases in the news is a sign of the more aggressive stance the Administration is taking in rooting out fraud and corruption in the system as one of many necessary improvements.
People like Summerhill who illegally collect benefits, not only put an unnecessary financial burden on the SSA’s programs and the working taxpayers who fund them; they are stealing from people who are legitimately disabled and deserve the benefit, the ones the program was designed for.
Stories like this are prevalent in the news, an encouragement that some funds are being recovered and put back into the system. They should also serve as a warning to those who are still committing fraud. Those who cheat the system are eventually caught, and must spend years of their lives paying and regretting their decisions.