Doreen Mitchell, and her cousin [ and lover], John Mitchell, 60, as well as her two sons, Michael Mitchell, 31, and Sonny Mitchell, 28, have agreed to plead guilty to the scheme in federal court in Dallas, court records show.
The complaint, filed in federal court in Dallas states that the four family members lied for years about their intelligence and their ability to function. As a result they have received $461,913 in Supplemental Security Income benefits.
The family members helped one another fake mental disabilities for years to collect more than $460,000 in benefits from the government, prosecutors said.
54-year-old Doreen Mitchell’s struggle with hallucinations caused by schizophrenia, began when she was 15, she said. The mental disability genes apparently passed on to her sons who inherited mental illness, she said.
Her cousin John Mitchell said he, too, has wrestled with demons for more than three decades.
The Micthells told Social Security screeners that they were a trapped family, unable to work, drive, shop and clean themselves without help.
They gravy train stopped in 2015 when they were arrested after suspicious agents secretly followed them to expose their well-rehearsed hoax against the Social Security Administration.
The government sleuths agents found the supposedly mentally challenged scammers, dressed normally and engaging in routine daily activities such as driving, shopping and socializing in large groups.
Court documents stated that all four: “misrepresented their actual levels of intelligence and functioning” during interviews and examinations with Social Security employees, including claims that some of them talked with ghosts.
Three of the four family members face up to five years in prison when they are sentenced.
Social Security experts say that such cases of outright fraud are extremely rare and that people in need are kept waiting far too long for needed benefits.
John Mitchell – Grifter 2
Doreen, John and Michael Mitchell have filed court documents agreeing to each plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to conceal a disqualifying event from the Social Security Administration.
Sonny’s attorney, Bruce Kaye, said his client will plead guilty to a misdemeanor. The judge in the case approved Sonny’s request for a competency exam in March.
Kaye maintained that his client has the documentation to support any future application for Social Security disability benefits.
To build up her disability case, Doreen Mitchell first applied for disability benefits in 1979 at the age of 15, “alleging visual and auditory hallucinations,” court records said. She claimed she suffered from schizophrenia and other conditions.
She once reportedly, attended an SSA exam wearing a dirty nightgown and “mumbled unintelligibly to herself,” according to court records.
Doreen told investigators that she could not read or write that she could not perform chores, prepare meals or drive, and that she spent all of her time at home. During one exam, Doreen told a doctor that she “don’t like to see nobody or go nowhere.”
Michael Mitchell – Grifter 3
But on July 22, 2014, in an interview with Social Security officials, her cousin John Mitchell had provided information on her behalf as if she couldn’t speak for herself, according to the affidavit.
“Doreen Mitchell appeared disheveled, actively avoided conversations, mumbled unintelligibly to herself, and claimed she could not leave the house alone,” according to the complaint.
When it came to her sons, they both claimed that they spent their days at home watching cartoons. Michael told an SSA employee he was too scared to ride the bus. They received benefits for “mild mental retardation” and autism, according to court records.
The brothers, however, were able to drive, interact with others, manage money and perform auto repairs for cash, authorities say.
Doreen told the SSA that John Mitchell, with whom she was involved in a romantic relationship, could not socialize with strangers, pay attention for long or handle money. But he was able to go shopping, and he solicited strangers for on-the-spot auto repairs, court records say.
Doreen Mitchell’s cousin John Mitchell started receiving SSI benefits in 2002 after claiming that he was schizophrenic. He was denied benefits in 2004.
John Mitchell again, applied for Social Security benefits in 2013.
Doreen Mitchell filled out his “adult function report,” Roberts wrote. Doreen wrote that she had to tell him when to shower, shave and take his medicine. She claimed John could not perform house chores, cook or handle money. That he could not leave the house only with her and that he couldn’t pay attention or socialize, the criminal complaint state.
The family members played along during interviews, often wearing stained clothes, court records show. The two brothers showed up to one interview in 2014 unshaven with messy hair. They did not speak or make eye contact.
“In each instance, the other party agreed to sit mute or be uncooperative while false or misleading information was provided to the SSA,” plea documents said.
Sonny Mitchell – Grifter 4
When asked if he could brush his teeth, Michael said, “I have no teeth.” In response to a question about whether he’s ever had surgery, he replied, “Pizza.”
In her plea, Doreen said she has “limiting mental impairments” but not to the extent she claimed in her benefit application.￼
Michael’s pretrial release was revoked in March after he was charged in Rockwall County with burglary, accused of breaking into a home in April 2016 to steal jewelry, court records show.
Federal investigators suspected Doreen Mitchell was faking mental illness in 2004, and her benefits were stopped. She appealed that decision in 2005.
At the hearing, she appeared to talk with her dead father. But the hearing officer noted that “her auditory hallucinations … appeared to be an act,” and her appeal was denied.
But Doreen appealed that decision to an administrative law judge. During a 2008 hearing, a physician testified that, in his opinion, she was disabled. The judge ruled in her favor and her benefits continued.
Doreen applied for benefits on Michael’s behalf in 2001 when he was 15, claiming he suffered from “mild mental retardation.”
Clinical assessments allegedly found that Michael had the social age of 4.8 years. He was subsequently diagnosed with “moderate mental retardation,” autism and psychotic disorder, Roberts wrote.
Investigators concluded that he was disabled and approved SSI benefits.
She followed up with an application for Social Security benefits for Sonny, in 2002 saying he had “mental issues and autism,” according to the complaint. Benefits were granted.
In 2004, Michael’s benefits were stopped after agents conducted an investigation.
He appealed to a judge, who ordered an exam.
In a covert interview, Michael “made regular eye contact” and answered questions “without hesitation,” investigators said.
He told officials he did automotive work on the side, drove although he didn’t have a license, shopped, handled cash and went to Las Vegas to get married, the criminal complaint says.
Two weeks later, when he knew that his eligibility was being examined, he did not respond to questions or speak.
His benefits were discontinued.
He appealed to an administrative law judge who ordered a new examination for him in 2007, when he turned 18.
During which he said he had a learning disability and schizophrenia. He was uncommunicative and sat with his head down without making eye contact.
He appeared to have a limited vocabulary and was unable to draw a figure that an average 3-year-old could manage. His benefits continued.