MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - An Alabama couple is facing up to 20 years in prison for charges related to a fraud investigation, officials with the Department of Justice confirmed.
Nakia and Nathaniel Palmer were both convicted of mail fraud and theft of government property after illegally obtaining $25,000 in Social Security benefits.
According to United States Attorney Louis V. Franklin, the Palmers claimed that Nakia was an actress living in California and that she had left her son in Nathaniel's custody in Alabama. The distance meant that Nakia's income would not be a factor when determining whether her son would be eligible for benefits.
In actuality, Franklin says, Nakia Palmer was working for the Social Security office in Montgomery. Evidence shows that the Palmers didn't use the illegally obtained funds for the minor child but instead purchased a vehicle.
The Palmers were convicted of other charges, in addition to their first two. Nakia Palmer was convicted of food stamp fraud and Social Security benefit fraud because she made additional false claims and was able to collect food stamps. Nathaniel Palmer was convicted of witness tampering as well.
When the Palmers found out they were under investigation Nathaniel reached out to a neighbor asking if he could lie to investigators about the family's living arrangements, Franklin says.
Franklin said this abuse of the system would not be tolerated.
"In carrying out their greedy scheme, the Palmers apparently thought that they were above the law. I hope that this verdict sends the message that the theft of taxpayers' dollars will not go unpunished," Franklin said.
A date for sentencing has not yet been determined. Both defendants face maximum sentences of 20 years' imprisonment, as well as substantial monetary penalties.