Pasco couple accused of using social benefits of deceased man
It has been two years and two months since Nathan D. Rich was last seen alive.
The Pasco man would be 26 years old now.
But police believe Rich is no longer alive and may not even have reached his 25th birthday.
Just three months after reporting his disappearance, Rich’s girlfriend and another man applied for Washington state benefits on his behalf and took the money for seven months.
No one has been charged for Rich’s alleged death. But Mira F. Fitzhugh and Corey G. Silva have fought against claims they claim to be the dead man.
Silva, 34, was arrested last week on an arrest warrant for missing a court hearing in January. He’s back after posting a $ 100 bond on Thursday.
Judges have issued nominal bonds for the wanted defendants to get their cases back on track, but are keeping them out of jail during the coronavirus pandemic.
Fitzhugh, 41, is currently on trial in mid-April.
Both are charged in Franklin County Superior Court with second-degree identity theft, financial fraud – unlawful possession of payment instruments and first-degree theft by welfare fraud, all felonies .
Both have denied any involvement in Rich’s disappearance.
trip to nevada
Rich was last seen on December 15, 2018, after being released from prison.
A missing person report was filed on December 31, 2018 with the Pasco Police Department.
Fitzhugh, who was dating Rich, claimed Rich walked to Nevada to visit his family over Christmas vacation.
But Detective Julie Lee told media she doesn’t believe Rich ever left the Tri-Cities, either by hitchhiking or by other means.
Rich was featured in May 2019 on the “For the Missing: Pacific Northwest” Facebook group, which highlights missing children and adults from the Pacific Northwest.
Lee allegedly discovered the financial fraud in the fall of 2019.
Audio, video evidence
According to court documents, Fitzhugh and Silva contacted the Washington State Department of Health and Human Services on March 14, 2019 and used Rich’s personal information to apply for benefits.
Then, after receiving an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card issued in Rich’s name, the couple went shopping at various stores around the Tri-Cities and outside the region, according to documents.
The card was recharged every month until September, when investigators discovered the scheme and put an end to it.
Lee obtained audio recordings from the Department of Health and Human Services related to Rich’s request and determined that the two voices on the messages belonged to Fitzhugh and Silva.
The detective also obtained surveillance footage from several stores that showed Fitzhugh using the EBT card to purchase food, court documents show.
A search of Fitzhugh’s home – a year after reporting Rich’s disappearance – revealed his EBT card in his girlfriend’s wallet and written documents belonging to him.
Fitzhugh admitted to reinstating her boyfriend’s state benefits and using all the money transferred to the card, documents show.
Silva also admitted to helping Fitzhugh but, when asked what name he gave during his DSHS call, he allegedly said he needed a lawyer and ended the interview with the police. .
Then, in January 2020, Pasco police announced that Rich’s disappearance had been reclassified as a homicide.
Franklin County Coroner Curtis McGary also issued a death certificate, although the cause of death is undetermined.
Investigators have said they’re hoping someone can lead them to Rich’s body, so maybe they can get answers for his loved ones.
Police have other information that Rich is dead, but are cautious about how much they release as this is still an open investigation, Sgt. Rigo Pruneda had previously told the Tri-City Herald.
Rich has been described as 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 200 pounds, with sandy blonde hair and blue eyes.
He has a mushroom tattoo on his right shoulder and “702” on his left arm. He wore a Dallas Cowboys hat, black leather jacket, jeans and hiking boots, and carried a dark Nike duffel bag.
Anyone with information about Rich or his whereabouts is urged to call the dispatch center at 509-628-0333 to speak to Pasco Police, or email Detective Lee at leej @ pasco -wa.gov.
This story was originally published February 16, 2021 5:00 a.m.