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Bozeman man admits stealing government benefits while acting as a fiduciary

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Posted at 5:38 PM, Jul 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-14 19:38:15-04

MISSOULA — A Bozeman man admitted on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, to stealing more than $57,000 in government benefits from an individual for whom he was the fiduciary, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Ira Kyrk Westbrook, 47, pleaded guilty to Social Security fraud. Westbrook faces a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen L. DeSoto presided. Sentencing was set for Oct. 28 before U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen. The court will determine a sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Westbrook was released pending further proceedings.

The government alleged in court documents that in September 2021, the Social Security Administration (SSA) received information that Westbrook was misappropriating Social Security benefits for an individual, identified as John Doe. Doe suffered a stroke in 2018 and had been admitted to a rehabilitation and care facility. Westbrook was appointed as Doe’s Representative Payee and agreed to use the Social Security funds only for Doe’s needs. Westbrook acknowledged he could be charged criminally if he misused the money.

An investigation determined that Westbrook transferred deposits by SSA and the Veteran’s Administration (VA) into Doe’s account to another account Westbrook controlled. Westbrook then made payments to local businesses and restaurants in Bozeman, along with payments to CenturyLink and Amazon, with the account incurring multiple overdrafts. In 2020, Westbrook purchased a travel trailer for $8,500 and a Jeep for $10,000. Westbrook claimed the vehicle was used to run errands for Doe but disclosed that he and his wife had put approximately 15,000 miles on it over seven months. Social media posts showed Westbrook and his wife in the Jeep on a camping trip with the travel trailer. Westbrook diverted a total of $57,329 of Doe’s funds, consisting of $37,731 in VA benefits and $19,598 in SSA benefits.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karla E. Painter is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the SSA, VA and Bozeman Police Department.