Former mayor of Martin, other workers indicted in Social Security fraud case

bestep@herald-leader.comOctober 24, 2013 

A former employee of the small Floyd County town of Martin defrauded the government by getting disability checks while also secretly being paid by the city, a federal grand jury has charged.

The alleged fraud involved several city officials, including former Mayor Thomasine Robinson.

Those charged are Robinson, 69; Rita Christine Whicker, 42, who once worked for the city housing authority and headed the Martin Community Center; Ginger Michelle Halbert, 42; and Ethel Lee Clouse, 68, the city bookkeeper.

The indictment said Halbert did work for the city, at Robinson's direction, from 2006 to Jan. 1, 2013, the period covered in the charges.

She also received Social Security disability payments in that time. That meant there was a limit on what she could earn from other sources, and that she had to report any other income to the Social Security Administration, according to the charges.

Halbert said she worked for the city as a volunteer, but secretly received paychecks issued from the city and housing authority in the name of her son, according to the indictment.

She allegedly endorsed the checks in order to cash them by using her son's name without his knowledge or permission.

Robinson, Whicker and Clouse were involved in the scheme to steal from the government, the indictment said.

The four are charged with conspiracy. Whicker, Robinson and Halbert also are charged with five counts of misappropriating money.

Halbert also is charged with getting $72,000 in disability payments she wasn't entitled to receive, with concealing her income from the Social Security Administration and with using her son's name, Social Security number and other information to cash payroll checks.

The indictment includes a forfeiture count under which prosecutors will try to recoup the amount of money the government allegedly lost.

Several of the charges include a sentence of up to 10 years.

The four are scheduled to make their first court appearance Nov. 5.

Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1

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