A Punta Gorda woman was arrested by federal authorities as part of “Operation Dead Ringer,” an initiative targeting individuals who steal Social Security benefits inadvertently paid to deceased beneficiaries.

Jacque Rathburn, 64, was charged with theft of government funds, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

Between February 2013 and June 2019, Rathburn fraudulently collected approximately $78,164 of her mother’s Social Security benefits following her mother’s death on Feb. 18, 2013, the release stated.

Rathburn was one of 11 individuals charged in separate cases, cumulatively stealing more than $700,000 in benefits paid by the Social Security Administration. If convicted, each faces a penalty up to 10 years in prison.

“As these charges demonstrate, stealing from SSA on behalf of a deceased beneficiary is a federal crime,” said SSA Inspector General Gail S. Ennis. “We work closely with the SSA and other government agencies to identify Social Security fraud and stop improper payments. I thank the United States Attorney’s Office and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Huyler for their continuing support of our investigations, and our law enforcement partners for their vital assistance in bringing these individuals to justice.”

The cases are being investigated by the SSA with assistance from other federal and local law enforcement agencies.

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