Massachusetts Man Sentenced to 4 Months in Prison for Deceased Payee Fraud

Date: 
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Office Affiliation: 

From the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts:

BOSTON – An Andover man was sentenced today for stealing more than $149,000 in Social Security benefits.

Graeme Griffith, 60, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Senior Judge Mark L. Wolf to four months in prison, two years of supervised release, and a $3,000 fine. Griffith also paid full restitution of $149,285 today. In January 2015, Griffith pleaded guilty to theft of public money.

In 2003, Griffith’s father died, but his monthly Social Security benefits continued to be directly deposited into a joint bank account in his and his father’s names. From 2003 to 2014, Griffith continued to receive his deceased father’s benefits totaling $149,285.

This case was brought as part of an ongoing effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in partnership with the Social Security Administration to investigate and prosecute the posthumous fraud of Social Security benefits. In many of these cases, family members, knowing they are not entitled to government benefits, continue to withdraw and spend the funds after a relative has died.

One of the ways the Social Security Administration detects this kind of fraud is through the Medicare Non-Utilization Project, in which the agency investigates people receiving benefits who are at least 90 years old and who have not used their Medicare Part B benefits for three or more years. In some instances, the agency learns that such a person is actually deceased, but a surviving child has continued to take the deceased person’s benefits.

Since October 2013, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has prosecuted several similar cases involving a total of more than $1 million in stolen government money.

Earlier this month, Frances Kenney Moseley, of Boston, was sentenced to three years of probation, including six months of home confinement, 1500 hours of community service, a fine of $5,000, and restitution of $470,188, of which she has paid $124,000. From 2003 to 2010, Moseley stole $222,172 in Social Security benefits and $248,016 in annuity funds paid to her deceased father.

In February 2015, Charles Gerbutavich, of Manchester, was sentenced to one year of probation, including three months of home confinement, and was ordered to pay a $3,000 fine and $161,587 in restitution to the Social Security Administration, which he paid in full in February. Gerbutavich pleaded guilty in connection with taking his deceased father’s Social Security benefits, which were directly deposited into a joint bank account after his death in 1993.

In October 2014, Mary Murphy, of Dorchester, was sentenced to 18 months of home confinement and 10 hours per week of community service, and was ordered to pay a fine of $40,000 and $331,630 in restitution, which she paid in full in October. Murphy pleaded guilty in connection with taking her deceased mother’s Social Security and Civil Service retirement benefits, which were directly deposited into a joint bank account after her death in 1977.

Also in October 2014, Richard Oldham, of Old Orchard Beach, Maine, was sentenced to four months in prison, six months of home confinement, and was ordered to pay $195,862 in restitution for endorsing Social Security checks in his deceased mother’s name following her death in 1993.

In August 2014, George Bergstrom, of Shrewsbury, was sentenced to one year of probation and was ordered to pay $57,948 in restitution – which he paid in full in August – for taking his deceased mother’s Social Security benefits, which were directly deposited into a joint bank account after her death in 2009.

In October 2013, John Flaherty, of Newburyport, was sentenced to 10 months in prison and was ordered to pay $168,830 in restitution for taking his deceased mother’s Social Security benefits, which were directly deposited into a joint bank account after her death in 1993.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Scott Antolik, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Boston Field Division, made the announcement today. The Griffith case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Landry of Ortiz’s Major Crimes Unit.