Alabama Woman Sentenced to 6 Months in Prison for Deceased Payee Fraud

Wednesday, September 9, 2015
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From the U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Alabama:

BIRMINGHAM -- A federal judge today sentenced a Birmingham woman to six months in prison and six months home detention for stealing Social Security benefits intended for her grandmother for more than 21 years after her grandmother died, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General Resident Agent in Charge Marvin Mauldin.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn ordered WENDI D. BALDWIN, 47, to forfeit $30,934 to the government as proceeds of illegal activity and to pay that same amount in restitution to the Social Security Administration. Baldwin stole more than $155,000 in benefits, but the statute of limitations on the theft charge restricted the government to recovering only five years' worth of benefits. Baldwin pleaded guilty in February to one count of theft of government property.

According to Baldwin's plea agreement with the government, she stole the Social Security Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance benefits between January 1992 and July 2013, following her grandmother's death in December 1991. The benefits were being deposited directly into a bank account Baldwin held jointly with her grandmother. Baldwin failed to notify the Social Security Administration when her grandmother died and converted the benefits to her personal use, according to Baldwin's plea.

SSA discovered the theft of funds in 2013 after several failed attempts to contact Baldwin's grandmother.

The SSA-OIG investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Xavier O. Carter Sr. is prosecuting.