Most of us go to work every day, work hard, and stay focused on doing a good job in our chosen profession. The hope is that someday – after years of service – we will have enough money put aside so that we can retire, relax and do all the things we didn’t have time to do while working. Teachers spend their careers helping to educate our nation’s youth and are among those who most deserve to reap the benefits of retirement. Unfortunately, the teacher in the story in today’s fraud from a NYDailyNews.com article died a year after he retired. So, what happened to his pension?
According to the article, city officials say it went to his wife – and allege that she wasn’t a beneficiary to his pension. Theirs was a May-December romance. The couple met while she was a student at the high school and he was her teacher. They were married in 1981 when she was 18 and he was 57. (There’s a flag on the play!)
Here’s where the alleged fraud comes into the picture. The teacher died in 1990, but the article says his widow “kept taking the pension checks even though he had not opted for the widow’s benefit.” (No one seemed to notice, so…) The city’s special schools investigator said the widow “filed official affidavits in her late husband’s name” to “keep the payments coming.”
The widow was recently arrested on charges of mail fraud and two counts of identity theft.
Records differ on the amount she allegedly scammed out of the city; canceled checks from 1997 to 2011 indicate that she may have “bilked the city out of $153,000,” while other records indicate – if the allegations are true – that she received up to $218,000 in city pension funds.
Pension fraud may seem harmless. The city may seem like a Goliath to the widow’s David, but the truth is more complex. What would be the harm in sending some money to a widow? The harm is this: if the city’s allegations prove true, and she wasn’t entitled to the pension, then it is that simple – she wasn’t entitled to it. The answers to these questions will be sorted out in a court of law. We do know one thing for certain: $218,000 could have paid for a few teachers to educate the city’s children.