Clouded Judgement


Sometimes emotions can get the best of us, especially when death is involved. Grief can be a factor in bad decision-making, but the defense attorney for a woman who collected the Social Security benefits of her deceased mother for 15 years after her death claims his client’s judgment was clouded by sorrow.

The woman claimed she notified the Social Security Administration of her mother’s death, but the benefit checks continued to arrive – for 15 more years. She didn’t follow up. (Perhaps she reasoned that she had done her civic duty and it wasn’t her fault that the agency made an error. That reasoning erroneously sides with the idea that finders are keepers and losers are weepers.) In all, she collected $308,000 in Social Security benefits she did not deserve.

In court, the emotional daughter expressed to the judge that she was deeply sorry and wished she could go back and make the right choice. (The judge didn’t buy in to her reasoning and sentenced her to a year and a day in prison, which is a much harsher sentence for that crime than normal.) Since the woman presented no evidence that she actually needed the cash to survive, her condo is now up for sale at $389,000 to help pay restitution.

If this woman thought she was sorrowful before, she is definitely sorry now. There was nothing cloudy about the judge’s decision. It’s as clear as can be – fraudsters must pay for their crimes.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, ”Troy woman gets rare prison term for Social Security fraud,” published by the Detroit Free Press on October 13, 2016.

A woman who illegally collected $308,000 in Social Security benefits after her mother’s death was sentenced Thursday to a year and a day in prison, a rare punishment for that crime in southeastern Michigan.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith found the case ”deeply troubling,” noting that Sandra Sarnowski’s mother died in 1998 yet she continued to spend monthly Social Security payments into 2013.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.