A Jessamine County woman convicted of Social Security and bankruptcy fraud was sentenced Thursday to seven years in federal prison.
Sheryl Bruner, 52, crying in open court, pleaded for leniency from U.S. District Court Judge Karen Caldwell. Bruner begged that she be released so she could take care of her mother and mentally retarded sister.
"Judge, please have mercy on me. Please let me go home," Bruner said in court. "You'll never hear from me again if you give me a second chance."
But Caldwell did not ignore the jury's conviction of Bruner in March on all 14 counts of the indictment. The jury convicted Bruner of receiving disability checks from the Social Security Administration when she could work, lying about her eligibility for disability, laundering money to conceal assets from the agency and making false statements when she filed for bankruptcy.
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Bruner took disability checks over a 10-year period when she was not disabled, could work and did work. In 2003, for example, she started a business called Support Service, which provided services to people with disabilities, and she received compensation through 2012.
When she filed for bankruptcy, Bruner concealed assets, including $220,000 in a safe in the attic of her house. A bankruptcy trustee testified that Bruner had a number of assets she did not disclose in her bankruptcy petition, including trust accounts, rental properties and a Cadillac Escalade that she paid for with $30,000 in cash.
The duration, scope and size of the offense, and the measures taken to conceal it, all added up to "a very serious crime," Caldwell said.
Bruner also pleaded guilty in June to a state charge of defrauding the Medicaid program. The 18-month sentence in that case will run concurrently with the federal sentence imposed Thursday.
After the proceeding, defense attorney Michael Khouri of Irvine, Calif., said he intends to appeal the conviction and the sentence to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Several people wrote letters to Caldwell in support of Bruner, including her ex-husband, Ray A. Bruner.
"Sheryl has always been a very good person with a caring heart, and I know she has never done anything to intentionally hurt anybody," Ray Bruner wrote.
A federal grand jury indicted Ray Bruner in July on charges that he did not fully disclose his income and financial resources while receiving Social Security benefits. The indictment said he began receiving monthly disability checks in 1996. The indictment said Ray Bruner failed to disclose income from Support Service, the business Sheryl Bruner had started; income from painting and other maintenance work; and acquisition of real estate in Winchester valued at more than $100,000.
The indictment said Ray Bruner knowingly made false statements to the Social Security Administration, including that he continued to be disabled; that his real estate was worth only $17,000; that he had not worked between 2002 and 2012; and that he only worked four hours in 2012.