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Laurel woman ordered to repay $325K of improperly claimed federal benefits

Missoula man exonerated in 2008 death of infant son
Posted at 12:10 PM, Mar 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-27 14:10:53-04

A Laurel woman who admitted lying to receive federal benefits to which she was not entitled was sentenced Friday to three years of probation and ordered to pay $325,870 restitution, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson said.

Tanya Smith, 45, pleaded guilty on Oct. 1, 2020, to theft of government property.

In court documents filed by the government, prosecutors alleged that from about 2002 until 2019, Smith made misrepresentations about her living situation, marital status and income to the Social Security Administration to receive benefits.

The misrepresentations resulted in Smith receiving $130,018 in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and $195,852 in Medicaid benefits, for a total of $325,870, to which she otherwise was not entitled to receive.

Smith began receiving SSI benefits in 1987 and then married in 2002. In 2004, Smith corrected her living situation with SSA, noting that she was married and living with her husband, making her ineligible to receive SSI benefits. About two months later, Smith falsely reported she had separated from her husband and was no longer living with him.

Smith continued to make this false claim for the next 15 years. Smith admitted to law enforcement to concealing her living arrangement to secure government benefits.

U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided.