Elmo man admits Social Security fraud, theft charges for collecting deceased mother’s benefits and not reporting proceeds from dog grooming business

May 29, 2024

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Montana

MISSOULA — An Elmo man accused of illegally receiving federal benefits by collecting his deceased mother’s Social Security payments and by not disclosing his assets, including proceeds from a dog grooming business, admitted to fraud and theft charges today, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

The defendant, Gerry Alen Albus, 64, pleaded guilty to theft of government money and Social Security fraud as indicted. Albus faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy presided. The court will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Sentencing was set for Sept. 24. Albus was released pending further proceedings.

In court documents, the government alleged that in May 2015, Albus was approved to receive Supplemental Security Income benefits from the Social Security Administration and was advised of his legal obligation to accurately report his income, resources and household composition. In October 2016, Albus reported to SSA that he had moved to Elmo, lived alone and paid rent to his landlord, when in fact, he did not pay rent and his landlord was his romantic partner. In 2017, Albus and his partner converted his partner’s 20-acre property in Elmo into a dog grooming business.

The government further alleged that Albus did not disclose his ownership interest in property he co-owned in Florida with his mother or proceeds from the sale of the property in June 2017. Albus’ mother died in March 2017, but SSA continued to send her monthly payments of approximately $2,000 until it learned of her death through this investigation. From March 2017 until November 2021, Albus took his mother’s SSA payments and used them for his personal expenses.

In addition, the government alleged that Albus failed to report other assets, including three vehicles, several bank accounts and proceeds from the dog grooming business.

In a May 2022 interview with SSA special agents at the dog grooming business, Albus admitted he did not pay rent, that he lived with his partner, that he did not disclose vehicles or income and that he took his mother’s SSA benefits after her death because he felt he was “entitled” to them. Albus told agents that he knew if he reported all his income and assets, it would have reduced or eliminated his SSA payments. SSA determined Albus received approximately $60,627 in SSI benefits for which he was ineligible and stole an additional $59,535 in SSA funds intended for his mother.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karla E. Painter is prosecuting the case. The SSA Office of Inspector General and Montana Division of Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation.

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