Montgomery, Ala -- A former social security administration employee has been sentenced to prison for benefit fraud, bringing her husband down with her. The employee, Nakia Palmer, and her husband, Nathaniel Palmer, were sentenced during a hearing on Friday, May 11. Nakia will serve 24 months in prison, while her husband serves six months followed by six months of house arrest.

The Department of Justice released the following statement in regards to the case:

"Montgomery, Ala. – On Friday, May 11, 2018, a former employee of the Social Security Administration (SSA) and her husband were sentenced to prison for defrauding the federal government, announced United States Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr.

The two defendants were former SSA employee Nakia Palmer, 35, and her husband, Nathaniel Palmer, 30. Both Nakia Palmer and Nathaniel Palmer presently reside in Gadsden, Alabama, but resided in Montgomery, Alabama during the period they committed their crimes. Nakia Palmer was sentenced to 24 months in prison, and Nathaniel Palmer received a 6 month prison sentence, to be followed by 6 months of home detention. There is no parole in the federal system.

The sentences follow Nakia Palmer’s and Nathaniel Palmer’s February 15, 2018 convictions after a four-day trial. At that trial, the jury found Nakia Palmer guilty of mail fraud, theft of government property, Social Security benefit fraud, and food stamp fraud. The jury convicted Nathaniel Palmer of mail fraud, theft of government property, and witness tampering. Each defendant was found guilty of all counts in which he or she was charged.

The trial evidence showed that the Palmers lied about their incomes and living arrangements for the purposes of fraudulently obtaining Social Security benefits on behalf of Nakia Palmer’s minor son. Specifically, Nakia Palmer falsely informed Social Security employees in Dothan, Alabama that she was an actress living in California and had left her minor son in her husband’s exclusive custody, so that Social Security would not consider her income in determining whether her son was eligible for benefits. All the while, Nakia Palmer worked for Social Security in the Montgomery office. Evidence also showed that the Palmers did not use the fraudulently obtained benefits to support her child. Rather, the couple spent the money on the financing of a new vehicle. According to the evidence, Nakia Palmer made similar false claims for the purpose of obtaining food stamps. In total, the Palmers received approximately $25,000 in benefits to which they were not entitled.

As for the witness tampering, the government proved that, after becoming aware that he was under investigation, Nathaniel Palmer asked his next-door neighbor to lie to investigators regarding the family’s living arrangements.

This case was investigated by the Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General, as well as the United States Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General. The United States Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General assisted in the investigation, along with the Alabama Department of Human Resources. Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan S. Ross and Joshua Wendell prosecuted the case."