For Immediate Release - August 21, 2013

Medford Couple Plead Guilty, Sentenced in Connection with EBT Fraud and Benefits Fraud Totaling More Than $161,000

Ordered to Pay Full Restitution

BOSTON – A Medford couple has pleaded guilty and been sentenced in connection with EBT fraud and other related charges of state and federal benefits fraud totaling more than $161,000, Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office announced today. They were ordered to pay restitution in the full amount they fraudulently collected through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), MassHealth, and the Supplemental Security Income Disability (SSI) program.

“These defendants stole tens of thousands of dollars from programs that are intended to assist those who are truly in need, including the food stamp program” said AG Coakley. “With this sentence, they will pay back to taxpayers the amount they fraudulently collected. Schemes such as this one undermine the integrity of these programs and our office remains committed to holding accountable those that commit this type of fraud.

Stacie Coviello-Hickey, age 41, of Medford, pleaded guilty today in Suffolk Superior Court to charges of Larceny over $250 (2 counts), False Representations to Procure Welfare (3 counts), and False Representations Related to the Division of Medical Assistance. Her husband, Ronald Hickey, age 44, also of Medford, pleaded guilty for Aiding and Abetting Larceny over $250 (2 counts).

After the plea was entered, Superior Court Judge Christine Roach sentenced Coviello-Hickey and Hickey each to serve five years of probation and to jointly pay restitution in the amount of $161,303. 

The AG’s Office began an investigation after the matter was referred by the State Auditor’s Office.

The investigation revealed that between 2005 and December 2011, Coviello-Hickey, aided by her husband, fraudulently collected more than $161,000 in state and federal benefits. She fraudulently collected more than $111,000 in benefits from MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, and nearly $9,500 in SNAP benefits for herself as well as her son and step-son. She collected more than $40,000 from the federal government in SSI benefits from October 2006 to December 2011.

She fraudulently collected these benefits by concealing the fact that she had been residing with Hickey, that he was gainfully employed with a salary in excess of $80,000, and had health insurance that would cover his entire family.

The state Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) administers the SNAP program, the state Division of Medical Assistance administers MassHealth, and the federal Social Security Administration (SSA) administers the SSI program. All of these agencies require benefit recipients to notify them of any change in household composition or income. The investigation revealed that if Coviello-Hickey had notified these agencies of her true situation, she and her children would not have been eligible for any benefits from either the state or federal government.

According to investigators, Hickey had knowledge that his wife was defrauding the state and receiving benefits but never reported his familial or employment situation to authorities. Hickey also took steps to further the scheme and conceal it from authorities. When confronted by investigators, the couple obtained a falsified rental agreement in an attempt to show that they were not living together and conceal the fraud.

Coviello-Hickey and Hickey were indicted on May 9 by a Suffolk County Grand Jury. They both pleaded guilty today and were sentenced in Suffolk Superior Court. 

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Jason Cofield through the AG’s Fraud and Financial Crimes Division, with investigative assistance from Fraud Examiner Pat Breen of the State Auditor’s Bureau of Special Investigations; the federal Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Boston Field Division; the state Department of Transitional Assistance; and the state Division of Medical Assistance.

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