From the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts:
BOSTON – A Haydenville, Mass. woman pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Springfield to stealing more than $45,000 of her deceased mother’s Social Security benefits.
Shirley Warner, 52, pleaded guilty to theft of public money. U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni scheduled sentencing for June 20, 2016.
In July 2010, Warner’s mother died, but her monthly Social Security benefits continued to be directly deposited into a joint bank account in her and Warner’s names. From August 2010 to March 2014, Warner continued to receive her deceased mother’s benefits totaling $45,491.
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. In the past year, 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, Lucy Girard, of Townsend, Mass., pleaded guilty to stealing $208,868 from Social Security and federal housing benefits, and Brian Sandiford, of Jamaica Plain, was sentenced for stealing $70,811 from Social Security from 2010 to 2014.
Next month, Richard Alan Hersey, of Winthrop, will be sentenced for stealing $444,287 in Social Security and federal pension benefits from 1991 to 2015. Hersey pleaded guilty in November 2015.
The charge of theft of public money provides a sentence of no greater than 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Scott Antolik, Special Agent in Charge of the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Boston Field Division, made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Deepika Bains Shukla of Ortiz’s Springfield Branch Office.