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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | article

Using Your Family to Defraud the Government: A Cautionary Tale

The government offers a lot of programs to people who find themselves in less than ideal financial situations. For Americans that are unemployed, there are resources in place that can help them support their families if they are having significant trouble doing so on their own. The government will also help citizens who are seeking higher education by providing grants and loans to individuals seeking a college degree.

One Salina, New York, native took advantage of the government's generosity by filing for false federal aid under the identities of several family members, including her three children.

Despite no intention to learn, thief takes out student loans
Beginning in 2008, Patricia Harrington had filed on three separate occasions for government-backed student loans that she claimed were going to be used to finance a college education. Instead, Harrington pocketed the money, and committed the same crime again in 2009 after successfully getting away with fraud the year before. Authorities caught on when they investigated the strange activity, and Harrington was sentenced to one year and one day in prison. She was also asked to repay the government the more than $130,000 in loans that had been given to her.

She may have been caught before, but thief still sees financial opportunities through crime
After serving time in jail, Harrington was also sentenced to three years supervision by the courts. However, this didn't stop her from widening her web of identity fraud. In 2012, she was caught having pocketed more than $20,000 in unemployment aid after the U.S. Department of Labor noticed unusual activity taking place in Harrington's hometown of Salina. When they traced five different unemployment requests to the address that Harrington had been occupying, they then discovered that Harrington had not only filed under her own name, but that of her sister and each of her children.

As serious as the charges were the first time being caught, they were sure to only get worse
Harrington was arrested in October of 2012 and charged with numerous first and second degree felony charges for her actions. She not only made a complete mess of her own credit report, but she dragged her entire family into the debacle, making a mess of her own childrens' credit scores.