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Contact: Steve Lowe, steve.lowe@dshs.wa.gov
Contact: Mindy Chambers, mindy.chambers@dshs.wa.gov
March 25, 2014
Fraud investigations lead to more than $230,000 in restitutions

OLYMPIA – In the first three months of 2014, U.S. District Courts have ordered four individuals to pay restitution of $97,521 to the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and $139,907 to the federal Social Security Administration.


This reflects DSHS' commitment to detecting and prosecuting fraud and to following up on tips from citizens who think they may have witnessed fraudulent activity.


In one case, Ramona Hayes of Friday Harbor, the former owner of 'Criminal Coffee' was sentenced to a year and a day in a federal prison. She also will make full restitution of nearly $43,000 to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and more than $15,350 to DSHS after pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud.


The investigation began after a tip to the Department of Social and Health Services' Office of Fraud and Accountability (OFA) in February 2013 that Hayes was using her electronic benefits card to purchase supplies for the coffee stand.


The investigation, done in conjunction with the SSA's Office of Inspector General, found she had been using the card at a local retailer to buy such supplies. It also found she did not report owning the business, or receiving any income from it, and lied about a child being in her home when the child had been in Oregon with his father when she applied for and received food benefits and Social Security disability benefits.


In the other cases:      


  • Melinda Ersland of Vancouver pleaded guilty to theft of public funds. Her sentencing is set for April 28, 2014. She will pay $23,786 in restitution to the Social Security Administration and $31,306 to the Department of Social and Health Services for collecting food stamp and medical benefits she was not eligible for between August 2009 and October 2012. She admitted she misrepresented information about her marital status and residency to the Department and Social Security in order to get benefits.


  • Julie Dahlquist of Auburn was sentenced to two years in prison and restitution totaling $17,182 to DSHS and the federal government. She had pleaded guilty to concealing money she had taken from an elderly man that resulted in her collecting $8,000 in Social Security disability benefits and $8,724 of food and medical benefits from the Department to which she was not entitled. The judge also ordered her to pay an additional $400,000 in restitution for money she had taken from the elderly individual.


  • Rolanda Miles of Bellevue pleaded guilty to theft of government funds and will pay $42,141 in restitution to DSHS for collecting benefits for which she was not eligible. She will pay an additional $64,663 to the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General. OFA was contacted by investigators in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to determine if Miles was collecting disability benefits in Washington. The Office worked with the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General and Canadian authorities and the investigation discovered Miles was illegally receiving benefits in both Canada and the United States for several years.  In addition to the restitution, Miles was sentenced to three years’ probation.


The Department's efforts to combat fraud benefit from alert citizens. Individuals suspecting fraud may report it by calling 1-800-562-6906.


DSHS does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.