A former Mrs. Florida who cashed and kept her elderly mother’s Social Security checks rather than use the money to pay for nursing home care, has been ordered to prison. A federal judge in Florida ordered Thursday that Karyn Turk, who was crowned Mrs. Florida in 2016, should begin serving her month-long sentence on March 2.
U.S. Magistrate Bruce Reinhart also ordered that following Turk’s prison sentence, she will also be placed on five months of house arrest and have to perform 100 hours of community service in a nursing home, the Palm Beach Post reported. The judge ordered the community service to be served at a nursing home, as a reminder of the time Turk never spent with her mother.
Turk charged after police learned she had been using the money from her mother’s Social Security, Veteran’s Administration, and pension checks for shopping sprees, dinners and a nanny to watch her children instead of covering a large nursing home bill for her mother over a period of three years. Prosecutors say some of the $219,000 in nursing home bills could have been covered by Medicare if Turk had filled out the necessary paperwork, but that the former Mrs. Florida refused, despite several requests from the nursing home.
The nursing home went to court and sued Turk, who was ordered by a Palm Beach County circuit court judge to pay $250 a month to defray the costs. However, Turk never sent the checks.
Lawyer David Tarras, who represents Turk, argues that the once-time conservative commentator had already suffered enough and didn’t deserve house arrest or time in prison. Turk, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of Social Security fraud, says she’s been harassed and attacked on social media and had lost her position on various philanthropic groups. Tarras said the damage to her reputation and her status in political, business, and social circles has been “enormous.”
“Her livelihood is based on networking and being a social media commentator,” Tarras said.
Turk had also provided a check of $46,000 to the court in an effort to reimburse the money she’d stolen from the government, Tarras said, adding that should be enough.
However, the judge disagreed, and after noting that Turk had otherwise served a law-abiding life, she had comitted a serious crime and shouldn’t be able to ‘buy her way out of jail’ by writing a check.
“Choices in life have consequences, I’m sorry to tell you,” Reinhart said. “If you steal from the government, you’re not going to have a reputation as an honest person.”
Reinhart added that Turk’s position as a social media influencer put her in a position to send an important message to her followers.
Turk’s elderly mother died in July at age 83. Turk is suing the nursing home where she died, claiming negligence led to her elderly mother’s death. The nursing home has filed a countersuit against Turk and her mother’s estate in an attempt to reclaim the money it is owed.
“I’m doing everything I can to redeem myself and move forward as a good citizen,” Turk said.