Michael: Hello! My name is Michael Chlebda. I’m a Special Agent with the SSA OIG Office of Investigations, and I am currently assigned to the field office in Columbia, South Carolina.
I would like to tell you about my investigation regarding Robert Henderson. This case emphasizes how the Office of Investigations and the Office of Audit work together to better protect SSA from fraud, waste, and abuse.
This case began in October 2008 when I received an allegation from the Office of Investigations - Strategic Research and Analysis Division. The allegation was generated based on the results of an Office of Audit project titled ‘Payments to Individuals Whose Numident Record Contains a Death Entry’. The project identified Hairan Henderson Jr. as a Social Security beneficiary in current pay status with a date of death of September 4, 2006 on his Numident record. A copy of Mr. Henderson’s South Carolina Death Certificate was included with the allegation. The death certificate confirmed that he died on September 4, 2006.
After receiving this allegation, I queried the SSA Mainframe for more information regarding Hairan Henderson Jr. I learned that his date of death was posted to his Numident record in October 2006 and he was receiving disability benefits as a Disabled Adult Child (DAC) on his deceased father’s record. His sister-in-law, Linda Henderson, was listed as his Representative Payee and the DAC benefits remained in current pays status. Monthly benefit payments were paid by United States Treasury checks, which were mailed to Linda Henderson's residence in Loris, South Carolina.
I subsequently contacted the SSA District Office in Conway, South Carolina who services the Loris area. I explained the nature of this case, provided them with a copy of the death certificate, and requested that Mr. Henderson’s DAC benefits be terminated. SSA terminated his DAC benefits and advised that benefits totaling $12,692 were paid after his death between September 2006 and November 2008. I then requested that they schedule Mrs. Henderson for an interview at the office on November 18, 2008.
Before the interview, I obtained and reviewed photocopies of the United States Treasury checks sent to Linda Henderson after Mr. Henderson’s death. The checks appeared to be signed by Linda Henderson; however, the majority of the checks reflected a South Carolina driver’s license assigned to Robert Henderson, Mrs. Henderson’s husband. At this point, I began to suspect that Mrs. Henderson’s husband was involved in the scheme.
On November 18, 2008, I continued with the investigation and interviewed Mrs. Henderson. She stated that Hairan Henderson Jr. was her brother-in-law. She stated that she was his Representative Payee. Mrs. Henderson explained that after her brother-in-law died, she continued to receive his DAC benefit checks. She added that she did not understand why the checks kept coming because she knew they were supposed to stop when he died. Mrs. Henderson stated that when she received the first check after his death, she marked the outside of the envelop ‘Deceased’. She added that she then gave it to her husband to put it back in the mail to SSA. She recalled receiving several more checks and doing the same with each. Mrs. Henderson denied cashing any of the checks. She stated that she recently received a letter from SSA advising her that she was overpaid more than $12,000. Mrs. Henderson stated that she confronted her husband regarding this issue. She stated that her husband told her that he had continued to negotiate the checks and used the money.
On November 26, 2008, I interviewed Robert Henderson. Mr. Henderson admitted that he continued to negotiate the DAC benefit checks sent to Hairan Henderson Jr. after his death. He further admitted that he knew that what he did was wrong and was willing to repay the funds.
On January 27, 2009, I presented the facts of this case to a Federal Grand Jury in the District of South Carolina. An indictment was returned, charging Robert Henderson with one count of Theft of Government Funds in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641. He appeared for arraignment by summons and was released on bond.
On April 24, 2009, Robert Henderson pled guilty to the indictment, and on August 25, 2009, He was sentenced to four months home confinement and five years probation. Robert Henderson was also ordered to pay restitution to SSA in the amount of $12,692.
Not only did this investigation result in restitution of over $12,000, a savings to SSA was calculated in the amount of $29,760. Again, this case serves as an excellent example of how the Office of Investigations can work with the Office of Audit to stop fraud, waste, and abuse.