TOPSHAM, Maine — A Topsham couple charged with using more than $100,000 in Social Security disability benefits paid to their disabled twin daughters on household expenses and travel pleaded guilty in federal court on Jan. 20 to conspiracy to defraud the Social Security Administration.
Thomas Gerken and Jill Gerken, both 63, each face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to a release from U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty II.
In 2004, the Gerkens applied for and were granted Supplemental Security Income benefits for their two disabled children, Delahanty said. As the representative payee, Jill Gerken was required to use the funds for the benefit of the two children, to account for how she spent the funds and to provide information to allow the Social Security Administration to determine whether the children remained eligible for benefits.
Between January 2007 and July 2013, when the children lived full time at an assisted living facility in Topsham, the Gerkens used about $108,000 of SSI benefits to pay for household expenses including their mortgage, a home equity loan, utilities, groceries, travel, restaurant meals and books, according to the release.
The investigation into the Gerkens began in July 2013 when a complaint alleging nonpayment for room, board and care was filed with the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Social Security Administration by Progressive Housing Association, which operates the facility, according to the complaint. The Gerkens’ twin daughters, who were born in 1986 and have been diagnosed with an intellectual disability and cerebral palsy, have lived at the facility since October 2006.
The daughters should have received $109,078 in benefits between October 2006 and July 2013, the complaint said. Of that, $94,840 is owed to the facility where they lived.
The Gerkens will be sentenced following completion of presentence investigation reports by the U.S. Probation Office.