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Social Security fraud

Lead, SD couple sentenced for social security fraud

RAPID CITY, S.D. – A Lead, S.D. couple convicted of Conspiracy to Defraud the United States has been sentenced to prison and ordered to pay $211,564.17 in restitution.

The conviction stems from a scheme by Jason Lee Stokes, 48, and Tami Lee Stokes, 52 to fraudulently obtain benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) between 2013 and 2023.

Jason Stokes applied for Social Security Title II Disability Insurance Benefits in December 2012, claiming he could not work due to illness. In actuality, Jason was healthy and worked as a self-employed construction contractor, putting his LLC in his wife’s name to hide his employability.

Jason and his wife Tami repeatedly lied to the SSA about the nature and extent of Jason’s alleged disability, claiming Jason needed a wheelchair, could not physically function without constant assistance, could not leave home and was unable to work. Jason feigned symptoms at doctors’ appointments to sell the deception.

Based on their fraudulent reports, the couple qualified for and received $166,458 in Title II benefits for his falsified disability. Jason and Tami also obtained Title II benefits on behalf of their minor dependent child totaling $43,042.

In total, the Stokes family received $209,500 in disability benefits between 2013 and 2023. During this time, the Stokes family purchased three snowmobiles, two vehicles, a trailer and a motorcycle. They obtained numerous hunting licenses, took month-long international vacations and enjoyed various outdoor activities including boating and helicoptering.

The decade-long fraud scheme was exposed in 2022 when a doctor conducting a required exam noted Jason’s muscle tone and other bodily functions were inconsistent with his reported impairment. Police surveillance efforts found that Jason left home to drive, shop, go to restaurants and even travel to Mexico for scuba diving.

The couple was indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2023 for Theft of Government Funds, Conspiracy to Defraud the United States and False Statement. Both pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Defraud the United States on March 8, 2024.

On May 15, 2024, Tami Stokes was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. When sentencing Tami Stokes, U.S. Circuit Judge Jonathan A. Kobes stated that Tami took “full advantage of the fraud on the United States” and lived “the high life on the taxpayers’ dime.”

Jason Stokes was sentenced the following day to 18 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. During sentencing, Judge Schreier cited Jason’s conduct as more egregious than Tami’s because of Jason’s efforts to feign total disability.

“Most of the people in South Dakota are honest, hardworking people, U.S. District Judge Karen E. Schreier told Jason at his sentencing. “The scheme you were involved in here was not that at all.”

Jason and Tami were each ordered to pay a $100 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. Both were then remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service

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