Cloudy, With a Chance of Fraud

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The Centenarian Project was launched by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in 2013 to help combat fraud by examining benefit records of citizens who are 100 years old. Today ‘s “Fraud of the Day” highlights how this initiative helped to stop a Michigan woman ‘s scam, which involved collecting more than $300,000 in benefits intended for her deceased mother.

A fraud alert was sent to the SSA ‘s Office of the Inspector General after it was determined that the woman entitled to receive the monthly retirement insurance benefits had previously died. (Fifteen years earlier to be exact.)

While testifying before the judge, the daughter who collected the undeserved benefits in a joint bank account she controlled, stated that she had called the agency to alert them to her mother ‘s death; however, the benefits continued to flow and she did not follow up to report the excessive payments. (Perhaps she thought that she had done her due diligence and it was not her fault if the government agency didn’t turn off the benefits. When you’re greedy, you can rationalize just about anything.)

The daughter ‘s lawyer defended her criminal acts by explaining that her judgement was clouded by sorrow. (The judge didn’t buy it and intimated that it doesn’t take 15 years to deal with the sorrow of losing a parent.) The judge was further troubled by the fact that this woman ‘s crime was not just a one-time occurrence, but one that lasted for 15 years. (The deceptive daughter collected $308,556 and kept the money all to herself.)

The 65-year-old woman was sentenced to one year and a day for stealing federal benefits from the SSA following her mother ‘s death. She was ordered to pay full restitution to the government with interest and agreed to forfeit the proceeds from the sale of a vacation condominium she owns near Lake Michigan.

There ‘s no doubt that sorrow can cause a person ‘s judgement to be clouded, but at some point, reason and logic should have kicked in. This woman knew that she needed to notify the SSA that her mother had died ,and she did ,but, she should have called again to make sure the benefits stopped. It looks like the judge has made his decision perfectly clear ,if you steal from the government, you will be punished.

 Source: Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Rochester woman sentenced in theft of $300K” published by The Detroit News on October 14, 2016.

A Rochester woman was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison for stealing more than $300,000 from the Social Security Administration by accepting federal benefit payments for her mother after her death.

Sandra Sarnowski, 65, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith in Detroit, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade said in a statement on Friday.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.