Michigan Man Pleads Guilty to Over $250,000 Deceased Payee Fraud

Date: 
Thursday, May 31, 2018
Office Affiliation: 

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

A Detroit man pleaded guilty yesterday to theft of government funds, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider announced.

Schneider was joined in the announcement by Resident Agent in Charge Adam Lowder, Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Detroit Field Division.

Pleading guilty was Claude Hopkins, 62.

According to court records, Hopkins’ father passed away in the summer of 1999.  He was receiving Social Security retirement insurance benefits at the time and because SSA was never informed of his death, SSA continued to pay those benefits into a bank account in his name.  The erroneous payments continued for approximately 17 years—$253,327.00 in total.  Hopkins then unlawfully converted those benefit payments by forging his late father’s name on dozens of checks.

In 2016, as part of the Medicare Non-Utilization Project, an SSA initiative designed to fight fraud by contacting elderly beneficiaries who have not used their Medicare in three or more years, SSA made contact with Mr. Hopkins, who reported that his father was “out of town.”  Subsequent attempts to reach Hopkins or his father were unsuccessful and a fraud referral was then made to the agency’s Office of the Inspector General.  SSA-OIG ultimately confirmed that Hopkins’ father was deceased. 

A sentencing hearing is set for September 5, 2018, at 2:00PM in front of U.S. District Judge David M. Lawson.  Hopkins faces a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison and will be required to pay full restitution to the Social Security Administration.

This case was investigated by special agents of the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General and prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan A. Particka.