Sebastian County Justice of the Peace Rebekah Schwartz and her husband Stephen Schwartz have pled guilty to social security fraud and face up to 10 years in prison. The guilty plea will create a vacancy on the Quorum Court that will be filled by a gubernatorial appointment.
The couple made the guilty plea March 2 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas at Fort Smith. A sentencing date for the couple has not been set.
The specific charge is a felony related to theft of government funds and aiding and abetting the theft of government funds related to fraudulently accepting Social Security Administration disability benefits while also operating a countertop remodeling business.
According to the Arkansas Attorney General’s office, the Little Rock Cooperative Disability Investigations Unit (CDI) received a tip in November 2020 that Stephen Schwartz was working and simultaneously receiving disability benefits. Stephen was employed with Liberty Roofing of Fort Smith between June and September 2016 and had his paychecks issued under his wife’s name in order to conceal that he was working despite claiming a disability. Stephen Schwartz was also employed at a countertop business between December 2016 and July 2017 while fraudulently collecting disability benefits.
Stephen Schwartz was sworn in as a Justice of the Peace of Sebastian County on Aug. 19, 2019, after being appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. He remained in this position until December 2020, which includes the time that he was defrauding the Social Security Administration.
After his term ended, Rebekah Schwartz was elected to the Quorum Court. Rebekah Schwartz, a Republican, did not file for reelection to the District 12 Quorum Court position. Republican Tommy Camp is the only person to file for the post.
Sebastian County Judge David Hudson said a letter of resignation from Rebekah Schwartz would allow a resolution declaring the seat to be vacant to be considered by the Quorum Court at its March 15 meeting. A vacancy declaration would then be sent to the office of Gov. Hutchinson who would appoint someone to serve out the term through 2022.