MINNEAPOLIS – A former beauty queen who collected Social Security (search) benefits by claiming she was disabled was sentenced Friday to nearly four years in prison and was ordered to pay $193,000 in restitution.
Denise Henderson (search) — Mrs. Minnesota International in 1999 and Mrs. Iowa International in 2001 — also must complete three years of supervised release once she's released. Defense lawyers said they will appeal.
The judge instructed Henderson, 44, and her attorneys not to comment afterward. She was ordered to begin serving her three-year, 10-month prison sentence after the holidays.
In August, a federal jury found Henderson guilty of wire fraud and of making false statements and concealing information from the Social Security Administration.
During her trial, Henderson's lawyer said she suffers debilitating chronic pain from a 1995 car accident.
In a report Henderson filed in 1997, she said she had continuous back and neck pain and couldn't move or straighten up, had migraines four or five times a week that lasted most of a day and couldn't drive for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Henderson testified she made 208 appearances as Mrs. Minnesota International (search) in 1999 and 2000, but that because she wasn't paid, the appearances were not work. According to her tax returns, Henderson had no income after the 1995 accident.
However, prosecutor Joseph Dixon had noted Henderson referred to herself as the "Energizer Bunny" because she was always on the go. He also showed the jury video of her riding on the back of a convertible in a parade, playing on a beach and easily climbing a flight of stairs.