Family Heritage

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Social Security benefits are synonymous with economic security for millions of Americans. Beneficiaries include those who are retired, disabled, or the families of retired, disabled or deceased workers. Today’s fraud article tells the story of a Charleston, West Virginia man, who committed Social Security fraud by participating in a scheme involving the falsification of a benefits application.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) reports that during 2018, approximately 63 million Americans will receive about one trillion dollars in Social Security benefits. The agency also states that survivors of deceased workers account for approximately 13 percent of the total benefits paid. Today’s fraudster benefited from a scheme that used the name of a deceased relative to apply for Social Security benefits. (The name used on the application belonged to another family member, who had died nearly two decades earlier.)

For those families who don’t have an adequate income, Social Security family benefits are a lifeline when a spouse or family member that collects benefits dies. The SSA explains family benefits well here, stating that spouses or children can receive a monthly payment of up to half of a worker’s full retirement benefit. There’s just one problem: Today’s fraudster wasn’t the spouse or child of the deceased family member.)

 Apparently, this scam had been going on for quite some time. Today’s fraudster learned of and joined in on the illegal scheme about two decades ago. When his other participating family members died, he carried on the illegal scam by continuing to cash in on the deceased family member’s benefit checks. (Obviously, the fraudster and his other family members were not entitled to receive any of those SSA benefits.)

 The 58-year-old West Virginian pleaded guilty for his role in the family Social Security fraud scheme that dated back more than 30 years. Over the 20 years he was involved in the scheme, he helped his relatives cash in on $36,927 in Social Security benefits. (That amounts to about $153.86 a month. Was that amount of money really worth it? I think not.) He was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay full restitution to the SSA.

Some families pride themselves in passing along their heritage to future generations. The heritage could be a philosophy or way of life or a family business, an estate or valuable possessions that have a special meaning to those who receive it. Today’s fraudster received a different kind of heritage from his forefathers – fraud. Let’s hope this illegal heritage has finally reached the end of the family line.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Charleston Man Sentenced for Social Security Fraud,” published by Charleston Gazette-Mail on October 11, 2017.

A Charleston man was sentenced in federal court Wednesday for his role in a Social Security fraud scheme dating back to 1986. 

Thomas Bennett, 58, previously pleaded guilty to theft of public money. U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston sentenced him to five years probation and was ordered to pay $36,927 in restitution for the fraud, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Carol Casto’s office. 

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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.