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Woman sentenced for stealing from government benefits programs

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Updated: 1/27 9:44 pm
LAS VEGAS (Las Vegas Sun) -- A woman who pleaded guilty to stealing more than $400,000 from the unemployment system, public housing authority and Social Security Administration was sentenced to federal prison today.

Teresa Ann Towns, 50, was sentenced to spend 57 months in prison, be on supervised release for three years and pay $477,466 in restitution, according to Nevada’s U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden. Towns has been in custody since she was indicted in June 2013.

Towns stole government money from 2005 to 2013 by establishing multiple business entities in Nevada and submitting false wage reports for fictitious employees in the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. That’s the state agency responsible for distributing unemployment benefits that are partially funded by the federal government.

When the unemployment benefits were distributed on debit cards in the fake names, Towns would use the cards to obtain cash from ATMs. That activity led to a loss of about $322,600 from the state and federal unemployment system.

During the same period, Towns didn’t report her income on annual re-certifications, which would have made her ineligible for housing benefits through the Southern Nevada Housing Authority. In May 2007, Towns also fraudulently obtained Section 8 housing from the Housing Authority by using false income and household composition information. The loss to the Housing Authority because of the fraudulent activity was $114,000.

Towns scammed a third government agency — the Social Security Administration — by applying for and fraudulently receiving child insurance benefits. In that scheme, Towns fraudulently obtained $40,656 from the Social Security Administration.

Towns had a similar brush with the law in 1991, which resulted in a prison sentence of two years. She was convicted in California of grant theft for using multiple aliases to obtain welfare benefits.

“Stealing from government benefits programs is a serious crime with serious consequences,” Bogden said in a statement. “Besides protecting our citizens from terrorist threats, white collar fraud is a top priority of the U.S. Department of Justice, and considerable resources are being utilized to investigate and prosecute this type of crime.”

-- Jackie Valley / Las Vegas Sun
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