According to court documents, the woman spent over a decade collecting Social Security funds intended for her deceased mother-in-law.

A Smyrna woman was sentenced today in Wilmington by U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika to 18 months in prison for defrauding the U.S. Social Security Administration of more than $175,000.

According to court documents, Deborah Vaughn, 63, spent over a decade fraudulently collecting Social Security funds intended for her deceased mother-in-law.

Each month for 12 years, the Social Security Administration deposited approximately $1,100 into a bank account belonging to Vaughn’s mother-in-law. Vaughn, who was a joint-user on the bank account, fraudulently accessed and withdrew the money knowing that her mother-in-law, the rightful beneficiary of the Social Security funds, had died in 2006.

When the Social Security Administration contacted Vaughn in 2013 and again in 2018, Vaughn repeatedly lied, including pretending to be her deceased mother-in-law, to ensure that the Social Security deposits would continue.

“By defrauding the government, Vaughn’s conduct subverted the purpose of the SSA: to provide a safety net for vulnerable individuals in our society," said David C. Weiss, U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware. "The court’s sentence reflects the seriousness of fraud against the government and should serve as a warning to those inclined to lie and cheat to obtain Social Security payments they do not deserve.”

Gail S. Ennis, inspector general for the Social Security Administration, thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for its support in bringing Vaughn to justice and recovering funds for Social Security.

“We will continue to work closely with SSA and other agencies to identify beneficiary deaths and pursue those who misuse those payments after someone dies," said Ennis.

SSA’s Office of the Inspector General investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Howland prosecuted it.