LAS VEGAS -- A federal judge handed a 57-month prison sentence Monday to a woman who pleaded guilty to stealing more than $400,000 from the unemployment system, public housing authority and Social Security Administration, Nevada's U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said.
Teresa Ann Towns, 50, of Las Vegas also was ordered by Senior U.S. District Judge Lloyd George to pay $477,466 in restitution. Towns was indicted and arrested in June, and has been in custody since then. She pleaded guilty in October to three counts of theft of government money.
"Stealing from government benefits programs is a serious crime with serious consequences," Bogden said. "Besides protecting our citizens from terrorist threats, white collar fraud is a top priority of the U.S. Department of Justice, and considerable resources are being utilized to investigate and prosecute this type of crime."
Towns, who also used the aliases C. or T. Moorehead, C. or S. Grayson, and V. Johnson, established multiple Nevada businesses from 2005 to 2013. She submitted false wage reports for fictitious employees to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, the agency responsible for distributing unemployment benefits that are partially funded by the federal government.
Unemployment benefits were then disbursed on debit cards in the names of the fictitious employees and sent to addresses accessible to Towns. She used the debit cards to obtain cash from ATM machines and convert the funds to her own use and the use of others. This caused government losses of roughly $322,682.
In March 2001, Towns fraudulently obtained a public housing unit from the Southern Nevada Housing Authority by using a false identity and other false information. The housing authority is funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
From 2005 to 2013, Towns also failed to report her income on annual re-certifications, which would have made her ineligible for the housing benefits. In May 2007, she also fraudulently obtained Section 8 housing from the housing authority by using false income and household composition information. This cost the housing authority roughly $114,000 in losses.
In October 2009, Towns applied for and fraudulently received child insurance benefits from the Social Security Administration. She falsely represented that the child lived with her in Las Vegas, and that she would use the benefits for the child. Towns fraudulently obtained roughly $40,656 in child insurance benefits from the Social Security Administration from 2009 through 2012.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Social Security Administration. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Gregory Damm.