MINNEAPOLIS—Yesterday in federal court, a 51-year-old Hermantown man pleaded guilty to stealing more than $144,000 in Social Security disability benefits. James William Smith pleaded guilty to one count of theft of government funds in connection to the crime. Smith, who was indicted on April 16, 2012, entered his plea before United States District Court Judge John R. Tunheim.
In his plea agreement, Smith admitted that on March 16, 2006, he applied for Social Security benefits, claiming he suffered from memory loss that made it impossible to work. Smith also admitted that during a medical evaluation, he falsely reported his medical condition, altering his speech, writing, and appearance. Based on that evaluation, Smith received a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and began receiving disability payments from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
For his crime, Smith faces a potential maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. Judge Tunheim will determine his sentence at a future hearing, not yet scheduled. This case is the result of an investigation by the SSA-Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Hermantown Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Clifford B. Wardlaw.