Woman pleads guilty to theft of brother’s disability checks

Posted July 23, 2010, at 11:12 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:34 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A Lamoine woman pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court to stealing more than $35,000 of disability payments intended for her brother over a 22-month period.

Jessica Sawyer, 29, pleaded guilty to one count of theft of government money between December 2007 and October 2009.

Sawyer remains free on $5,000 unsecured bond.

Her sentencing date has not been set.

She was indicted in May by a federal grand jury on the theft count and 22 counts of mail fraud — one count for each disability check that was intended for her brother. The mail fraud counts are expected to be dismissed after she is sentenced, according to Sawyer’s plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

The theft came to the attention of workers at the Social Security Administration in September 2009 when her brother, who had moved to Florida, applied for disability a second time, according to court documents.

Sawyer’s brother resided with her in Lamoine in 2006 when he first applied for disability. A short time later, according to court documents, the two had an argument and he moved to Florida.

In March 2007, the Social Security Administration notified Sawyer’s brother he qualified for disability, but she never forwarded the notification to him. Instead, according to federal prosecutors, she began endorsing the checks over to herself and signing her brother’s name.

She also rented a post office box in Mount Desert, according to court documents, then sent a change of address form in her brother’s name to the Social Security Administration so the checks would be sent to the post office box.

Specifics about how Sawyer spent the money were not included in court documents.

Sawyer faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. By pleading guilty, she agreed not to appeal her sentence to the 1st U.S. Court of Appeals unless the sentence is longer than 16 months.

She also is expected to be ordered to pay $35,430 in restitution at her sentencing.

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