Two plead no contest to disability insurance fraud scheme

Crime Watch

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Two people accused of falsely claiming one of them was disabled and the other served as their caretaker in order to collect disability insurance benefits have pleaded no contest to felony charges.

Under Tuesday’s plea agreement, Wade Benson and Deborah Hicks must pay $70,451.14 in restitution. They have to pay $20,000 within 10 days of the plea then $500 a month afterward until full reimbursement is made, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s office.

Sentencing will be put off in six-month increments to monitor whether they fulfill the terms of the agreement, Assistant District Attorney Joseph Kinzel said.

If payments are made as scheduled, Benson and Hicks will be sentenced to probation for two years, Kinzel said. If not, they face a maximum of three years in prison.

“The plea was structured in order to best seek restitution for the lost government funds,” Kinzel said.

Prosecutors say Benson and Hicks forged doctors’ signatures on disability paperwork and received benefits;. Neither of them is disabled.

They also were charged with opening a disability case in another person’s name without that person’s knowledge. The signatures of that person and a doctor were forged in that case as well, prosecutors said.

Benson and Hicks both pleaded no contest to charges including grand theft of property and falsely certifying a medical condition to obtain disability insurance benefits. They agreed the charges dismissed under the plea agreement can be considered against them at sentencing, prosecutors said.

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