BOISE — An Eagle man is accused of falsely claiming his mother was alive for more than a year after her death in order to collect Social Security benefits.

William Rhoton, 65, is charged with one count of failure to report or notify authorities of a death. He could face up to 10 years in prison. He may face further charges after the U.S. Social Security Administration completes its fraud investigation.

Police and prosecutors believe Rhoton’s mother died in May 2018. Prior to her death, she was receiving monthly Social Security money, Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Shelley Akamatsu said in court Friday. Rhoton had access to that money, as well.

Family members became concerned when they hadn’t heard from his mother for long periods of time. They contacted authorities, and eventually Ada County Sheriff’s deputies spoke with Rhoton himself.

He told them his mother had advanced dementia, he took care of her and she didn’t recognize anyone but him, according to Akamatsu. When they asked where she was, he told them she was in Arizona visiting friends. Deputies then asked to communicate with her via a video call to make sure she was all right, but Rhoton wouldn’t do that either.

Two days after that conversation, Rhoton’s ex-wife spoke with police and told them about conversations Rhoton had with her about his mother. In one of those exchanges, she said, he claimed his mother had died by falling out of a boat on the California coast. His ex-wife told him that didn’t make sense, and Rhoton eventually confided in her that his mother had died at the home in Eagle. Based on what his ex-wife said, Akamatsu said in court, Rhoton then wrapped up his mother’s body and hid it in a bathroom in the house’s garage. He later put it in the back of a Suburban, which he left in a field near the home, according to Akamatsu.

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In the meantime, he did not report her death, and the Social Security money kept arriving.

Police obtained a search warrant for the 8,500-square-foot house in Eagle, Akamatsu said. They searched it and eventually found Rhoton’s mother’s body in the Suburban in the field.

Authorities had only completed the autopsy of her body Friday morning, the prosecutor said.

Rhoton was booked into the Ada County Jail just after 9:30 p.m. Thursday, on suspicion of failure to report or notify authorities of a death.

Akamatsu asked for a $500,000 bond, citing Rhoton’s wealth and said she worried he intended to flee. Magistrate Judge Theresa Gardunia set his bond instead at $300,000. She also scheduled a preliminary hearing in the case for July 3.

Tommy Simmons is the Ada County public safety reporter for the Idaho Press. Follow him on Twitter @tsimmonsipt

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