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Twin Falls woman sentenced for benefit fraud

From the November crime report: Murder trial, police officer shot, rape charges series
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BOISE — A Twin Falls woman was sentenced to five years of probation for Social Security fraud.

Jenna Nichole Castaneda, 30, underreported and misrepresented her husband’s income to the Social Security Administration multiple times from 2013 to 2018, the U.S. Atorney’s Office in Idaho said in a Friday statement. As a result, Castaneda received $42,451.41 in Supplemental Security Income benefits on behalf of herself and her child to which she was not entitled.

Castaneda also applied for and received additional benefits that were administered by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. In her applications, she underreported and misrepresented her husband’s income. As a result, she erroneously received Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, and Aid to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled benefits totaling $64,842.22. As a result of her intentional misreporting, Castaneda fraudulently received $107,293.73 in benefits for herself and her children.

Chief U.S. District Judge David C. Nye also ordered Castaneda to pay $107,293.73 in restitution to the Social Security Administration and Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Castaneda pleaded guilty to the charge on Jan. 22.

“Castaneda’s criminal conduct lasted for five years, undermining SSA’s mission to provide for the vulnerable among us,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez Jr in the statement. “I commend the investigators for their steadfast commitment to ensuring justice in this case.”

“Ms. Castaneda repeatedly misrepresented her spouse’s income to continue to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Her false statements are not only criminal, but also led to her fraudulently receiving $42,451 in SSI benefits for herself and her child,” said Christian Assaad, acting special agent in charge of the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, Seattle Field Division. “The SSI program is a needs-based program, and we will continue to work with other agencies and our law enforcement partners to ensure that only those who are truly eligible for these critical benefits receive them. I thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecuting this case.”

“For personal gain, Ms. Castaneda exploited programs that are funded by taxpayers and dedicated to public service,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven J. Ryan with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. “Her attempts to line her pockets betrayed the Medicaid program, other beneficiaries who rely on the program’s financial stability, and the general public.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Gonzalez formally recognized the cooperative efforts of the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General, and Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, which led to charges.

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