A Massachusetts grandmother is facing up to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to stealing Social Security benefits, but Shirley Daley claims she didn't know the money belonged to the government.
Daley, of Shirley, who has six children and 12 grandchildren, says, “They want to punish you. They don’t want to get to the bottom of how this happened.”
Daley says she and her first husband immigrated to the United States from Honduras in the late 1960s, getting married shortly after they moved.
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“When I first came to this country I had one social security number, and then I got another social security number when I got married,” Daley said.
She says it somewhat made sense to her that one was in her maiden name, the other in her married name.
In 2005, at the age of 70, the registered nurse started receiving retirement benefits – for herself through one social security number, and for her late second husband through the other social security number.
“I did not know that this money belonged to the government because this is money I worked for and my husband worked for, and they took it out of our pay,” Daley said.
She says she received those benefits for 12 years before the federal government realized and stepped in – accusing her of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“$319,000!” she said.
Daley said her public defender convinced her to plead guilty this week, in exchange for the possibility of avoiding jail time.
But she still needs to pay back the money – which amounted to just over $2,200 a month over the 12 years.
“I felt like a lamb to the slaughter," Daley said, "so all I have to do now is wait on the mercy of the courts.”
Daley is scheduled to be sentenced on May 6.
NBC10 Boston reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for comment on Daley’s claims but has not heard back.