Imagine sitting in your hunting stand, the crisp fall weather biting at your face as you wait patiently for your deer. You’ve taken all the necessary steps, carefully planning the hunt down to last seconds before pulling the trigger. The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) is taking a similar approach to fraudsters, planning the hunt down to final seconds before the catch, according to a Vindy.com article.
OPERS is taking a stand to fraudsters, making their mission clear: “If you are stealing from OPERS or any other of the state pension boards, you will be found, you will be prosecuted.” (This is what we like to see; states taking a proactive stand to diminish fraud.) If there was any doubt of OPERS’ commitment to stopping fraud, it was shattered when an investigation led to the arrest of a 69-year old Washington state man, who has been accused of collecting pension payments on behalf of his deceased mother. Following the announcement of the indictment, an Ohio Attorney General made a statement to thieves: “…We are after you; you’re going to get caught eventually, and in this particular case, it’s not really a good idea to defraud the Ohio government-pension fund.” (We ARE hunting you.)
The investigation found the defendant’s father was an employee of the Ohio Department of Transportation, and when he died, he left his pension benefits to his wife – the defendant’s mother. Prosecutors allege the defendant continued to collect the pension benefits in her name after she died in 1989. Court documents reveal the man allegedly did not stop at collecting benefits; rather, he went as far to submit an address change form to continue collecting benefits when he moved. The investigation (the hunt) was a product of an OPERS fraud detection alert after a routine check on the age of the defendant’s mother. (Regardless of the outcome in this case, we need to make routine check a standard practice.)OPERS released a statement explaining routine checks would be performed on individuals 90 and over.
It is critical to point out that the defendant has only been indicted. He is innocent until proven guilty and deserves his day in court. However, he faces a tough penalty. He is accused of committing a theft of more than $100,000 over a period of 20 years, which carries a sentence of seven years in prison.
Regardless of the result in this case, it’s great to see states taking action to bring down fraudsters. While the hunt isn’t as easy as sitting in a tree stand, the reward of bringing the prized catch to prison is well worth the investigative efforts.