Woman accused of cheating DHS out of $192K

Suspect's partner linked to massive car crushing ring, racketeering investigation

Katie Lorraine Burns shown in a jail booking photo.
Katie Lorraine Burns shown in a jail booking photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A 27-year-old woman will be arraigned on Friday on allegations that she swindled nearly $200,000 from the state Department of Human Services (DHS).

Katie Lorraine Burns was arrested Thursday by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office after a warrant was issued for her arrest.

Burns faces a 47-count indictment that charges her with 21 counts of first-degree theft by deception, 16 counts of unlawfully obtaining public assistance, 6 counts of aggravated first-degree theft, and 4 counts of unlawfully using a food stamp benefit.

As of Friday morning, Burns is no longer in custody. She has been released to the county’s pre-trial release services.

As DHS fraud investigators looked into Burns’ receipt of benefits, they discovered that she was closely associated with a man named Ryan Zimmers.

Zimmers, according to court documents, is part of a large scale network of individuals and two businesses that have been under investigation for racketeering. Court records show that Zimmers plead no contest to operating an illegal towing business and guilty to improperly conducting a vehicle dismantling business in June 2015.

In 2013, the state started investigating A1 Light Truck and Van Parts and West Coast Car Crushing. The investigation revealed that Zimmers was selling cars to the two companies, and that the companies “would then crush the cars and sell them for scrap metal,” according to court documents.

Some of the cars sold by Zimmers had been stolen before being brought to A1 and West Coast Car crushing to be crushed, according to court documents.

Detectives learned that Zimmers was routinely selling catalytic converters. The grand jury investigating Burns obtained records from the company where Zimmers sold the catalytic converters and those records revealed that he was paid in cash $360,897 from Feb. 28, 2012 and Feb. 25, 2016.

Starting in June 2008, Burns applied for welfare “Cash for Families” benefits, according to court documents. She indicated that she was pregnant with her first child and that Zimmers was the father.

Between 2008 and 2015, Burns “consistently” claimed that she did not know where Zimmers lived, that she did not want the state to start child support proceedings against him, she was the only adult in the household, she did not receive any money from any other source, she did not have $100 or more in cash or any bank account, her name never appeared on any checking or savings account and she did not have any item of value, including a car.

But, the DHS investigation showed the claims Burns had made were false.

The grand jury investigating Burns obtained records from Portland Public Schools and the daycare centers she sent her children to.

“In these records, both the defendant and Ryan Zimmers each signed the Student Verification forms that the schools used to collect data about their students,” court documents state.

The address for the children, Zimmers and Burns all matched, according to court documents.

The grand jury was also able to discover records that show Burns and Zimmers “jointly purchased” a 2011 Nissan Maxima for $33,500. Court documents show that a $9,800 cash down payment was made and a $16,500 credit for trade-in was made. At the time of the credit application, which she was receiving state benefits, Burns listed her monthly gross income as $3,009. Zimmers’, the co-applicant, listed his monthly income at $5,000.

DHS investigators also obtained records that show Zimmers and Burns shared a bank account in which they both made deposits and withdrawals. The total amount deposited into the account was $250,000 spread out evenly from month to month, according to court documents.

The charges on the bank statements were “typical” of a family unit, living together, records show. Activity on the account included payments for insurance, utilities, rental cars, gas, car payments, food, phones, clothing, cable, gym, etc.

DHS reports that it gave Burns $192,551.47 in benefits based on the false information she gave in the 16 applications.

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