Missouri mother and son indicted, accused of disability fraud

Fraud News Graphic

A Missouri mother and her son were indicted this week in U.S. District Court in St. Louis and accused of defrauding the Supplemental Security Income Program with false claims of a mental disability.

Gino Rives, 35, of Edmundson, appeared in court Friday and pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and five counts of theft of government funds. His mother, Zella Rives, 57, also of Edmundson, appeared in court Thursday and pleaded not guilty to the same charges, with the addition of one count of making a false statement.

The indictment alleges that from May 11, 2010, to August 30, 2023, the Rives defrauded the Social Security Administration’s Supplemental Security Income Program out of more than $88,000 by falsely claiming that Gino Rives had mental disabilities and had little or no income or resources. They claimed he had never worked, owned nothing, couldn’t drive, and was unable to pay bills or use a bank account, the indictment says.

They concealed Gino Rives’ construction and tree trimming work, his mixed martial arts career, a 2009 conviction for financial exploitation of the elderly, his ownership of vehicles and homes, and receipt of $721,000 worth of checks from an elderly individual, “A.B.,” before her death in April of 2023.

Gino Rives was charged in a separate indictment in April with one count each of access device fraud and fraudulently affecting transactions after being accused of fraudulently using A.B.’s credit card to purchase $4,788 in Southwest Airlines tickets. He pleaded not guilty to those charges. 

The conspiracy and wire fraud charges each carry a potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. The charge of making a false statement is punishable by up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, and the theft of government funds charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and the same fine.

The Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Secret Service investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Berry is prosecuting the case.