Whitesburg KY
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3 to answer federal charges

A Sandlick man and woman and their daughter are summoned to appear in U.S. District Court in Pikeville on January 4 to answer charges contained in a federal indictment charging them with “devising a scheme” to steal more than $200,000 in disability and healthcare benefits.

The summons was issued Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward B. Atkins. The indictment, returned December 15 by federal grand jury sitting in Pikeville, charges Harry and Betty Taylor and their daughter, Carolena Bentley, with using the U.S. Postal Service to defraud the Social Security Administration’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services for at least $200,591.97 during a period beginning in April 2012 and ending in September 2015.

The Taylors are each charged with theft of government funds, falsifying and concealing a material fact in connection with health care benefits, and conspiracy to commit mail fraud or wire fraud. Ms. Bentley is charged with a single count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud or wire fraud. All charges are felonies.

According the indictment, the conspiracy to commit mail fraud began more than eight years ago — in June 2008 — when Harry and Betty Taylor transferred control of their small coal company, Taylors Cobra No. 1 Coal Co. Inc., to Ms. Bentley, who “agreed to accept ‘ownership’ of these assets so that [her parents] would qualify for SSI benefits to which they would not otherwise be entitled.”

The indictment says the Taylors “continued to share control over the company and to use and benefit from the income generated from the business” until the coal company was dissolved in 2014.

As the indictment points out, “Supplemental Security Income is the first federally administered cash assistance program in this country available to the general public. It is designed to provide a floor of income for the aged, blind or disabled who have little or no income and resources. Persons that qualify for SSI receive financial benefits in the form of money. If they receive SSI financial benefits, they also qualify for Medicaid benefits. A person seeking SSI benefits must fully disclose income and financial resources to the SSA and is under a continuing duty to notify the SSA of changes with regard to these matters.”

The indictment says the Taylors continued to commit mail fraud from the time they applied for SSI benefits until their payments were stopped “by stating to the Social Security Administration that they continued to be unable to engage in gainful employment and they did not have substantial income through the operation of a business, Taylors Cobra No. 1 Coal Co. Inc., and had acquired substantial real and personal property that would have disqualified them from receiving SSI and Medicaid benefits.”

“The attestations generated a mailing through the United States Mail in interstate commerce,” the indictment says. “The SSI benefit checks received by [the Taylors] were either mailed in the U.S. Mail in interstate commerce or transferred using wires sent through interstate commerce. In addition, when an individual is approved for Medicaid benefits, a mailing notifying the recipient of approval is generated.”

The indictment says Harry and Betty Taylor committed the offense of theft of federal funds when they “did knowingly embezzle, steal, and purloin money of the Social Security Administration to which” they knew they weren’t entitled. The Taylors are charged with falsifying and concealing a material fact in connection with health care benefits, says the indictment, because they “did conceal the fact that [they] derived substantial income though the operation of a business and had acquired substantial real and personal property.”

If convicted of the conspiracy charge, the Taylors and Ms. Bentley could face imprisonment of not more than 20 years and a fine of not more than $250,000. The theft of government funds charge against Bentleys in punishable by not more than 10 years imprisonment, while the charge of falsifying or concealing a material fact in connection with health care benefits is punishable by not more than five years imprisonment.

U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey told the court he will seek repayment of the $200,591.97 in benefits illegally obtained by the Bentleys through restitution or forfeiture. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Karen K. Caldwell.

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