Exactly one year after Rowan County teen Erica Parsons was reported missing by her brother, her adoptive parents appeared in federal court Wednesday to face charges of Social Security and Medicaid fraud.
Casey and Sandy Parsons were never charged in their adoptive daughter's disappearance, but a federal grand jury indicted the couple Tuesday on 76 counts of tax fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy to steal government funds.
According to the indictment, the Parsons' continued to claim that Erica lived with them after she was last seen in November 2011, receiving food stamps and more than $12,000 in government adoption assistance.
The heaviest charge against the couple, wire fraud, carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The Rowan County Sheriff's office canceled a press conference Tuesday morning at the last minute, but earlier this year, Sheriff Kevin Auten had this to say about Erica's adoptive parents:
"It is clear that Casey and Sandy Parsons have not been truthful in providing the information that would lead to the whereabouts to find Erica," Auten says. "We know that there's someone out there who can help us though and now is the time to come forward."
FBI agents say the now 16-year-old Erica Parsons did not go to live in Asheville with a woman named Irene Goodman as her parents claimed. Her parents say Goodman is Erica’s biological grandmother. Investigators say she doesn't exist.
The indictment reveals some new details about the case. In 2004, Rowan County Department of Social Services received a complaint that the Parsons were physically and emotionally abusing Erica. Casey Parsons says that because of the stress of the investigation, Erica was sent to live with her sister. That case was closed six months later.
The indictment also says that after that year, doctors, school employees and social workers diagnosed Erica with learning disabilities, hearing loss and speech delays. In 2008, her parents began homeschooling her.
On Wednesday, the Rowan County Sheriff's office doubled the $10,000 reward for information to help them find Erica. That brings the total reward offered by the FBI, Sheriff's office and a local advocacy group, Prevent Child Abuse Rowan, to $50,000.