A California woman who cashed nearly $300,000 worth of her dead mother’s Social Security checks for 24 years, financing her own car payments, airline tickets and hotel stays along the way, was sentenced Tuesday to 13 months in prison.
Emma Carter-Alexander took over collecting her ailing mother’s benefits in 1991 when she started caring for her and continued to receive and cash them until February 2017.
Her mother, Dorothy Griffin, died in 1993.
Court records show that 66-year-old Carter-Alexander was paid out $298,168.20 over the 24 years she scammed the system, the Sacramento Bee reports.
She used the money to pay credit card and car bills, buy airline tickets and finance hotel says — as well as shop in numerous stores, court documents said.
In addition to 13 months in prison, Carter-Alexander was ordered to repay the money to the government, starting with quarterly payments of $25 while she’s incarcerated.
“It’s a puzzling case,” U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez said. “This is an individual who, but for this crime, has done a number of admirable things in her life.”
Court papers describe Carter-Alexander as deeply remorseful and a woman with no criminal history. She is the mother of an adopted 35-year-old son and has recently completed a Ph.D. in hopes of becoming a psychologist, court papers say.
But the sentencing memorandum from Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Kelley notes that Carter-Alexander went out of her way for years to ensure the checks kept coming.
When she moved from Houston to California in 2003 – 10 years after her mother died – she filed a change of address form for her mother, and with the filing of each annual report she signed a form that warned any false information would be made “under penalty of perjury,” court documents say.
“At any point, Carter-Alexander could have come clean and stopped the payments to her deceased mother,” the sentencing memo states. “Instead, Carter-Alexander sought to conceal her conversion of public funds, and by doing so was able to continue her fraud for over 20 years.”
Carter-Alexander was ordered to surrender to authorities by Jan. 23.