Federal authorities spent more than a year investigating Governor Jan Brewer's role in collecting Social Security benefits intended for her mentally ill son, Ronald, who currently is in a state hospital after being found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1990 on kidnapping and sexual assault charges.
The federal government, according to the Arizona Republic, which broke the story, was trying to determine whether $75,000 in benefits were improperly paid to the governor on behalf of her son.
Yes, Brewer is the same governor who earlier this year cut healthcare benefits for an estimated 135,000 poor Arizonans.
Federal prosecutors have declined to charge the governor with any crimes, unidentified sources told the newspaper. The sources go on to call the investigation "highly political."
Brewer's office declined multiple interview requests, and the paper was unable to determine the scope of the investigation because state and federal agencies refused to reveal information about the probe.
Without the help of Brewer and other government agencies involved in the investigation, the paper was able to draw the following conclusions:
The case involves an examination of Social Security benefits paid on behalf of Brewer's oldest son, Ronald. He first received benefits as a minor after his father's death and continued to receive them as an adult because of a disability from mental illness.
In 1989, Ronald was charged with sexual assault and kidnapping. The next year, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to the Arizona State Hospital. A court commissioner ordered Jan Brewer, as Ronald's "representative payee," to direct her son's monthly Social Security benefits toward the cost of his hospitalization. The Arizona Department of Health Services, which runs the hospital, declined to release records to The Republic regarding such payments, saying the records either were protected by privacy laws or did not exist.
Court records said Ronald was receiving Social Security benefits when he was sent to the hospital in 1990. Federal law was changed in 1995, barring Social Security benefits to anyone institutionalized after being found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Each year, Jan Brewer, as "representative payee," would have been asked by the Social Security Administration to sign a form regarding her son's status. That form requires the representative payee to confirm if there is any change in the living arrangements of the beneficiary. The signature line for that reporting form states: "A person who conceals or fails to tell SSA about events asked about on this form with the intent to fraudulently receive benefits may be fined, imprisoned, or both." Ronald did have a status change in 2002. Court records show he was conditionally released in May 2002 and returned to the hospital by September 2002. He currently is confined to the hospital.
The basis of the investigation was whether Ronald improperly received benefits at any time; the amount of money in question is about $75,000. Brewer said her son is no longer receiving benefits.
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Brewer issued a statement about the investigation, claiming that "to our family's knowledge, my son has never received any Social Security benefits to which he was not entitled, and all the benefits he has received have been spent entirely for his care and well being."
She says she doesn't know the specifics about the fed's investigation, and says she was never contacted by investigators.
See Brewer's entire statement here.
See the full Republic story here.