NEW BERN, N.C. – A Saint Pauls, North Carolina woman, Stephanie Chavis, was sentenced today to 65 months in prison and three years of supervised release for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Chavis was also ordered to pay $760,966 in restitution to the Social Security Administration. On April 16, 2019, Chavis pled guilty to the charges.
According to court documents and other information presented in court, Chavis was an Operations Supervisor at the Fayetteville offices of the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSA administers monetary aid to the public through federally funded programs, including the Supplemental Security Income program (SSI), which authorizes monthly payments to qualifying individuals who are 65 years or older, blind, or disabled, and who meet certain income and resource criteria.
In her capacity as an Operations Supervisor, Chavis had access to SSA beneficiary accounts and associated personal identifying information (PII). Between approximately August 2010 and April 2018, Chavis caused over $760,000 in SSI benefits to be electronically deposited into nine different bank accounts held in her name, and in the names of various family members, by making false and fraudulent representations to fellow SSA employees, including claims representatives and other supervisors. The investigation established that Chavis used her government-issued PIN number to query the accounts of approximately 62 program beneficiaries and used their PII to generate the fraudulent payment requests. The beneficiaries targeted by Chavis included incarcerated individuals who were not entitled to payments, individuals who had been suspended or terminated from the SSI program, and beneficiaries who were legitimately owed SSI funds.
To circumvent SSA policy requirements, Chavis provided the beneficiary PII and account information for deposit purposes to unsuspecting claims representatives and asked them to create approximately 100 fraudulent payment requests. After the requests were created, Chavis either approved them herself or asked other SSA employees to process the approvals. Thereafter, the stolen funds were deposited into the bank accounts under Chavis’s control.
“Ms. Chavis misused her official position and authority in the Social Security Administration to steal over $760,000 in taxpayer funds. I am gratified that a review by the SSA OIG audit office flagged this activity to OIG investigators as potential fraud,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. “We will continue to identify and aggressively pursue any instances of employee fraud and hold wrongdoers to account. These efforts are critical to maintaining the public’s trust in Social Security. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for its support of our investigation and efforts to bring it to a successful resolution.”
G. Norman Acker, III, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Louise W. Flanagan. The case was investigated by Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, Atlanta Field Division, under the supervision of Special Agent in Charge Rodregas W. Owens. Former Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamika Moses and Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam F. Hulbig prosecuted the case for the government.