Every kid gets into a little bit of trouble from time to time. Some talk back to their elders, some act out and still others take things from kids that don’t belong to them. Most grow out of these bad behaviors – often guided by their parents or other adults. Of course, fraudsters are a notable exception. Even if they learn right from wrong, they disregard these rules and cheat others in favor of lining their own pockets. Sometimes they involve friends and families in their schemes. But usually those caught up in the schemes are alive. That’s not the case in today’s fraud from NBC15.com, in which a woman involved her deceased mother’s memory in her scam to defraud federal taxpayers.
According to the article, the defendant’s mother was receiving a federal pension at the time of her death in September of 1995. The defendant saw an opportunity and decided to continue collecting her mother’s pension. From September 1995 until November 2009, the mother’s checks continued to roll in, and the defendant spent the money.
The Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Retirement Inspection Branch discovered the fraud during a “routine audit” of pension recipients in March 2011. As the auditors checked the mother’s Social Security number against other Social Security databases, they realized the discrepancy – she was deceased and still receiving a pension. The OPM Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Secret Service then investigated and the U.S. Attorney’s Office brought the case to trial.
Now the defendant is going to prison. A federal judge recently sentenced her to one year and one day in prison “to deter others from attempting the same scheme in the future.” She also was ordered to pay back the pension money she stole, which totaled $131,878.21. (How about some interest, as well? I wish I could get a 14 year loan, interest free.)
Unfortunately, fraud in government programs is a reality. A fraudster will look for any angle to make a buck – even if it means implicating the memory of a deceased parent in a scam. But fraud can be found, as it was in this case. All it took was simple data analysis of a government database. So, what if all government agencies that dispensed benefits checked their recipients against public records databases on a regular basis? How much fraud do you think they would be able to find – and stop?