Arlington

Arlington woman gets 33 months for stealing dead parents’ benefits

The 34-year-old woman had been receiving her parents’ retirement insurance benefits from the Social Security Administration after they died.
The 34-year-old woman had been receiving her parents’ retirement insurance benefits from the Social Security Administration after they died. Star-Telegram archives

An Arlington woman who admitted stealing her dead parents’ retirement insurance and veterans benefits was sentenced Friday to 33 months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $143,000 in restitution.

Latasha Smith, who also uses the last name Matthews, must surrender to federal prison June 5, U.S. District Judge John McBryde ordered.

The 34-year-old woman’s father, Paul Smith, had been receiving retirement insurance benefits from the Social Security Administration under an alias, Barney Smith, and a different Social Security number when he died in December 1989.

“Although the SSA was notified that Paul Smith died, it did not recognize Barney Smith as an alias identity, and it continued to pay benefits to Barney Smith,” according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office.

For 19 years — until her own death — Paul Smith’s wife, Mary, used her husband’s Social Security benefits, an act that the U.S. attorney’s office says constituted theft. The wife also received his Veterans Affairs benefits, to which she was entitled, the release says.

When Mary Smith died in December 2008, the VA and Social Security benefits continued to be directly deposited into two joint back accounts — one for Mary and Barney Smith and the other for Mary and Paul Smith.

Latasha Smith, who had access to both accounts, admitted to investigators that she transferred the money from one account to the other, then cashed checks from that account written to herself or her husband.

She also withdrew money with an ATM card, she told investigators.

McBryde ordered Smith to pay restitution to both the SSA and the VA.

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655

Twitter: @deannaboyd

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