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Riverside Attorney Admits Social Security Theft

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RIVERSIDE (CBS/AP) — A Riverside County public defender has pleaded guilty to stealing Social Security benefits in the name of her dead grandmother.

Deputy Public Defender Audrey Owens entered the plea Monday in federal court to two felony counts of theft of government property a week before trial was scheduled.

A U.S. attorney’s statement says no plea deal was offered in the case and the 60-year-old Owens could get a maximum of 20 years in prison at her sentencing scheduled for June 2.

An indictment accused Owens of receiving Social Security benefits intended for her grandmother from soon after she died in 2000 until 2012. The indictment says Owens received a total of $129,000 during the scheme.

It said she spent it on personal expenses including contributions to the Riverside County Employee Campaign.

Investigators say they interviewed Owens, who allegedly claimed she did not realize she was taking Social Security benefits but thought she was cashing in VA benefits from another relative.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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