TACOMA, Wash. — A woman admitted Monday that she coached her two children to fake retardation starting when they were 4 and 8 years old so she could collect Social Security benefits on their behalf.
Rosie Costello, 46, admitted in U.S. District Court that she collected more than $280,000 in benefits, beginning in the mid-1980s. Most was from Social Security, but the state social services agency paid $53,000.
Costello pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government and Social Security fraud. Her son, Pete, 26, pleaded guilty earlier this month. Federal prosecutors in Seattle said Monday authorities had not yet located her daughter, Marie.
According to the plea agreement, Costello began coaching her daughter at age 4, and later used the same ruse with her son. He feigned retardation into his mid-20s — picking at his face, slouching and appearing uncommunicative in meetings with Social Security officials.
Social Security workers became suspicious and uncovered a video of Pete Costello ably contesting a traffic ticket in a Vancouver courtroom.
Pete Costello is scheduled to be sentenced May 11 and faces from six months to a year in prison, as well as $59,000 in restitution.
Rosie Costello is scheduled for sentencing May 17. Her standard sentencing range was not immediately available, but in the plea agreement she agreed to repay the government.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.