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Public Defender Charged In Alleged Social Security Fraud Scheme

RIVERSIDE ( – An Upland attorney and Riverside County deputy public defender surrendered Wednesday after being charged with stealing approximately $129,795 in social security benefits, according to federal prosecutors.

In a criminal complaint filed in federal court on June 10, 60-year-old Audrey Owens was charged with theft of government property in a scheme that spanned 12 years, U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. said in a statement.

Owens is charged with one felony count that carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.

From June 2000 through August 2012, according to the affidavit (PDF) in support of the complaint, Owens fraudulently obtained social security benefits intended for her grandmother, who died in May 2000.

Owens is accused of changing the address of a joint account she shared with her grandmother and continuing to receive social security payments intended for her.

She allegedly used the payments to pay bills and expenses that included contributions to the Riverside County Employee Campaign, Birotte said.

Owens, who was taken into custody by special agents with the Social Security Administration, was scheduled to appear in federal court Wednesday afternoon.

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