Authorities: Casey and Sandy Parsons took money for teen long after she went missing
WINSTON-SALEM — Sandy and Casey Parsons walked out of a federal courthouse smiling Wednesday. It was a far cry from their demeanor when the two walked into a courtroom to face charges that include tax fraud, mail fraud and identity theft.
The Parsonses were arrested Wednesday morning on a 76-count criminal indictment that asserts the couple continued to receive adoption and health care benefits for their adopted daughter, Erica Lynn Parsons, who had not been living with them.
Erica was reported missing on July 30, 2013, by the Parsonses’ biological son, Jamie Parsons.
Jamie, now 21, told Rowan County Sheriff’s investigators he’d not seen his sister since November or December 2011.
Casey and Sandy maintain they allowed Erica to live with her biological paternal grandmother, Irene Goodman, a woman they knew as Nan, who lived in Asheville. Investigators and members of the Goodman family have said there is no Irene Goodman.
The Parsonses have not been charged in Erica’s disappearance.
The indictment alleges that from February 2010 to August 2013, Sandy Parsons, 40, and Casey Parsons, 39, committed tax fraud, mail fraud, theft of government funds, and identity theft, and engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the government.
The indictment alleges that the Parsonses received government-funded adoption assistance, Medicaid, Social Security, and Food and Nutrition Services benefits for a dependent who did not live with them and used the mail to commit the fraud.
The indictment also alleges that Casey Parsons fraudulently used the identities of other persons as dependents and used other false information when preparing federal tax returns.
The couple were brought separately into the federal court building, one inside a pickup and the other inside a van with dark-tinted windows. The couple were picked up by FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigation agents at their Fayetteville home early Wednesday.
They were shackled, both with solemn looks on their faces, and were led into the courtroom with others awaiting afternoon hearings.
Both asked for court-appointed attorneys, which were granted for the initial appearance. Sandy was represented by H.A. Carpenter and Casey stood beside her attorney, Ames Chamberlin.
The judge said Sandy and Casey could be released if they each posted a $25,000 secured bond, but the couple said they could not afford to pay the $2,500 necessary to be released.
There was a bit of back and forth over what property the couple owned that could be posted. Both Sandy and Casey said they did not own assets, then acknowledged their two vehicles.
Judge Joi Peake, who signed to unseal the indictments Wednesday morning, agreed to a secured $25,000 bond and electronic monitoring. The couple must abide by certain conditions upon their release that include submitting to DNA samples, make all court appointments, stay within the middle and eastern district of North Carolina, not possess a firearm, to name a few.
Once the judge announced the Parsonses were free to go after pre-trial release conditions were met, Casey walked back to her seat, giving daughter Brooklyn a smile upon seeing her in the room.
Sandy and Casey Parsons are each charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; 20 counts of theft of government funds, each of which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; and 20 counts of mail fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The indictment also charges Sandy Parsons with one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory sentence of two years, consecutive to any other sentence, and a $250,000 fine; and one count of false statement to a government agency, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Casey Parsons is also charged with one count of false pretense in a health care matter, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; two counts of Social Security fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; 15 counts of aggravated identity theft, each of which carries a mandatory sentence of two years, consecutive to any other sentence, and a $250,000 fine; two counts of false statement to a government agency, each of which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; six counts of aiding in the preparation of a false tax return, each of which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine; six counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; and one count of making false claim against the government, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The couple have said Erica had not lived with them since Dec. 17, 2011, but they continued to make “representations” that she lived with them well after that date, the indictment said.
In fact, in a Facebook message to Carolyn Parsons made after December 2011, Casey told Erica’s biological mother the girl still lived with her and Sandy at their Miller Chapel Road home.
The indictment said Sandy Parsons claimed Erica as a dependent living with them on his 2012 tax returns.
Casey Parsons reported to the Social Security Administration in Aug. 29, 2012, and June 25, 2013, applications for Supplemental Security Income benefits, that Erica lived in the household.
On April 10, 1999, Casey and Sandy applied for adoption assistance funds with the Cabarrus County Department of Social Services on behalf of Erica. The pair were supposed to notify the agency of any changes including address and if they were no longer legally responsible for her care and custody.
She was in their care when the application was filed. The Parsonses also received annual letters on March 1, 2011, March 1, 2012, and March 1, 2013, saying if there were changes, they should notify DSS.
In January 2011, Casey updated her address and asked that money be sent via direct deposit. Officials informed Casey they could not accommodate her request and continued to send adoption assistance checks via mail.
The two did not notify DSS in November or December 2011, when they say they last saw Erica.
They continued to receive $634 a month assistance payments through Aug. 9, 2013, court records said. The Parsonses received a total of $12,680 from January 2012 to August 2013. Assistance payments were then terminated, indictments said.
The Parsonses did “knowingly withhold material information that they were obligated to provide” to Cabarrus County DSS and wrongfully obtained the money, the indictment said. Each check mailed constitutes a separate offense.
On Aug. 6, 2012, Casey Parsons made an application for health care benefits — namely Health Check (Medicaid) and NC Health Choice for Children in Rowan County. She claimed Erica lived at the home when she did not. She used Erica’s name and birth date on statements regarding health care matters, the indictment said.
She also put Erica’s name and information on forms Aug. 29, 2012, and June 18, 2013, for SSI benefits when the child did not live at the home.
On July 10, 2012, and June 8, 2013, Sandy filed for benefits through Food and Nutrition Services (formerly Food Stamps), a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in Erica’s name. On Dec. 3, 2012, the indictment said, Casey filed for Food and Nutrition Services benefits.
The indictment said Casey incurred federally guaranteed student loan debt in the amount of $23,141.99, which went unpaid. She did not file a tax return after 2010 and thus avoided the potential debt collection. She also prepared taxes for her family members using false and fraudulent information including listing the identity of dependents.
She also did not claim $12,791.08 in income from the sale of items sold online on eBay. Since she filed taxes electronically and received a refund, the wire transmission constitutes a separate offense.
She also filed a tax return in 2009 claiming a First Time Home Buyer’s Credit for the qualifying purchase of a home that was never purchased in that year.
Casey’s sister, Robin Ashley, who until recently had custody of Sadie and Toby, the youngest of Sandy and Casey’s children, said she was glad to hear of their arrest.
“I’m glad they are finally getting charged with something, even though it’s not what I hoped for. So now I just hope that one of them will grow a conscience and tell what they have done with Erica,” Ashley said.
When she first heard of her sister and brother-in-laws arrest, Ashley said she thought it was for Erica’s disappearance.
“I pray she will get justice one way or another,” she said.
Casey’s sister, Tammy Gray, said she was kind of disappointed the pair were released.
“I’m glad at least the wheels are turning instead of standing still. Today was progress,” she said.
She hopes these charges will lead to criminal charges in Erica’s disappearance.
“I do think it might be a small step forward. At least now we are moving forward,” Gray said.
Carolyn Parsons, Erica’s biological mother, said she was excited to learn of Casey and Sandy’s arrest, but angry to learn they were released.
“I think it’s pathetic to get a slap on the wrist and get to go home,” she said.
The case was investigated by the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anand Ramaswamy.
Anyone with information about the disappearance of Erica Lynn Parsons is asked to contact the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, 1st. Lt. Chad Moose at 704-216-8687 or Investigator Sara Benfield at 704-216-8739.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.