April 27, 2018
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Woman pleads guilty to getting aunt’s benefits after her death

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A former Waterville resident pleaded guilty Wednesday to collecting surviving spouse veterans benefits sent to her aunt for 18 months after the woman died.

Lorraine M. Rich, 57, of Bradenton, Fla., faces up to 10 years in federal prison for the theft of more than $25,000 in benefits sent to her aunt Cora Thompson after the woman’s death in April 2004.

She remains free on $15,000 personal recognizance bond.

Rich also faces up to five years in prison for lying on an application for housing assistance when she did not declare the income from illegally obtained Veterans Affairs benefits.

A sentencing date has not been set.

Rich also could be fined up to $250,000 on each count and ordered to pay restitution.

She was arrested in Florida on July 30. Rich was released the next day on $15,000 unsecured bail after an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Tampa, Fla.

Rich remains free on bond pending sentencing.

Court documents state that the VA paid $27,398 in benefits to Thompson after her death. The amount of money Rich received in housing assistance was not available Wednesday.

Thompson received VA benefits as the surviving spouse of Vernon Thompson. In 1999, Rich became legally responsible for her aunt’s finances but did not notify the agency of the older woman’s death on April 27, 2004. She continued to receive Thompson’s benefits through Sept. 30, 2006.

During much of that time period, Rich lived in housing subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and distributed through the Waterville Housing Authority. She did not report the income from the VA when she received Section 8 housing assistance payments, according to court documents.

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