No prison time for Valpo man in Social Security fraud
BY Teresa Auch Schultz email@example.com July 20, 2012 4:32PM
Updated: July 20, 2012 10:00PM
Although a federal judge scolded a Valparaiso man for stealing almost $130,000 from the Social Security Administration over a decade, he ultimately granted the defendant’s request for a sentence of two years of probation and no prison time.
Ronald Harrison, 55, still must pay the SSA the $124,000 he stole, however.
Harrison pleaded guilty a year ago to continuing to accept his grandmother’s monthly Social Security payments up until 2011, even though she died in 1998.
Harrison said during his sentencing Friday morning at the U.S. District Court in Hammond that at first he did not realize the SSA was still sending the payments and that a funeral director had told him all the agencies had been contacted about his grandmother’s death.
Moody called him out on that, however, saying he could have reported the mistake when he found out about it a few years later.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Moody asked Harrison.
The judge called Harrison greedy, noting that Harrison made a six-figure income at the time, but Harrison said he didn’t report the issue then because of fear.
“I was afraid of the repercussions at the time,” he said.
Despite Moody’s criticism of Harrison, he said he decided to sentence him to two years of probation, including one year of home confinement, because Harrison takes care of his wife, who has had more than 20 major surgeries and requires more. Moody also noted Harrison’s military record and employment history.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Bell had asked in a filing that Harrison serve about 15 months in prison. The motion said that Harrison lied to officials from the SSA in 2010 when they asked him about his grandmother and continued to accept the payments afterward.