Former Sebastian County JPs sentenced to prison for social security fraud

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 2,380 views 

Two former Republican members of the Sebastian County Quorum Court were sentenced Monday (June 27) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas at Fort Smith to prison and ordered to pay restitution following their guilty plea in March to social security fraud.

Stephen Schwartz, age 55, was sentenced to 6 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and Rebekah Schwartz, age 44, was sentenced to 6 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. They were ordered to pay restitution, jointly and severally, to the Social Security Administration in the amount of $167,756.60.

“The Social Security Administration is set up to make funds available to those who are truly in need because of a disability.  However, through their criminal conduct, Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz lined their own pockets with this money that was intended to help those with legitimate disabilities,” United States Attorney David Clay Fowlkes said in a statement. “Our office will continue to pursue fraud cases such as this one and will continue to seek to protect programs like this, which are designed to help some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”

The couple faced up to 10 years in prison.

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.

Although the Sebastian County website still lists Rebekah Schwartz as an active member of the Quorum Court, her position was declared vacant in May by the Court.