A Ferndale woman arrested last week while posing as her dead mother to allegedly collect her retirement benefits may face more charges, a Whatcom County deputy prosecutor said Thursday morning, March 10.
Loewen B. Craft, 59, has been charged in Whatcom County Superior Court with first-degree theft, first-degree identity theft and 11 counts of forgery.
That may be just the tip of the iceberg, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Eric Richey said in court Thursday while arguing for a higher bail amount for Craft.
Craft is currently being investigated by the state Department of Social and Health Services and the U.S. Social Security Administration, Richey said.
Craft allegedly accepted disability benefits from those agencies while claiming she did not have income when she did - her mother's retirement benefits, Richey said.
If the Social Security Administration finds enough evidence to substantiate charges, Craft would be charged federally, said Eileen McSherry, an agency spokeswoman based in Seattle.
Richey said Craft also may face a perjury charge for allegedly lying to her son's parole officer.
"We are expecting to charge her with additional counts of theft and fraud," Richey told Judge Ira Uhrig.
Craft allegedly dressed as her 90-year-old mother, Betty Becker, who died in 2007, to collect more than $145,000 in retirement benefits from the Chevron Oil pension fund, according to charging documents filed in Superior Court.
When Chevron officials became suspicious of Craft after checking a federal registry of dead people and finding Becker's name, Craft found a way to allay those concerns.
She disguised herself as Becker, even donning makeup and a gray wig to make herself appear older, and obtained a Washington state identification card in Becker's name, according to charging documents.
Craft entered financial institutions in 2009 and 2010 to notarize documents while posing as Becker.
The retirement benefits were deposited in a bank account shared by Becker and Craft. After a Whatcom County Sheriff's detective investigated Craft and uncovered the fraud, the bank account was frozen.
Craft then opened a new account at the Industrial Credit Union in Ferndale in February. Credit union officials asked her come to the branch on March 2 to fill out more paperwork.
She did - only to find Sheriff's detectives waiting for her. She was wearing a gray wig and glasses as part of her disguise, but immediately took them off upon seeing the detectives and another deputy, according to charging documents.
They arrested her and booked her into the Whatcom County Jail, where she remains in lieu of $25,000 bail.
On Thursday morning, her attorney, Whatcom County Senior Deputy Public Defender Lance Hendrix, argued that she should be released without having to post bail.
Craft was brought into court in a wheelchair, and Hendrix argued that she has diabetes and is not receiving the care she needs while in jail.
"She has numerous health problems," Hendrix said. "They don't have the facilities here to properly care for her."
Richey countered that Craft's medical problems were just another ruse.
He said surveillance footage collected throughout the investigation shows Craft walking around without trouble.
He said neither Craft nor her caretaker had diabetic medication when she was arrested.
"She did not appear to be disabled as she claims to be," Richey said. "The court needs to question anything and everything that she says."
Uhrig agreed and kept her bail at $25,000.