Death May Not Do Us Part

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The point of public pensions is that government employees be able to maintain a standard of living that they’ve earned through years of hard work and dedication to the state, throughout their retirement. It is in no way meant to act as an estate asset or an inheritance that lives on after their death. The Albany Times Union writes about one such case, in which a 58-year-old Atlanta man illegally collected his mother’s pension for nearly four years after she had passed away in New York.

The mother had spent much of her life working for the New York Department of Corrections, making her eligible to collect a $3,500 monthly state pension, to begin on the date of her retirement and end on the date of her death. After she died, in 2009, her middle-aged son was made the executor of her estate. (We’ve done enough of these to know that age doesn’t necessarily come with a moral compass.)But instead of reporting his mother’s death to the New York Retirement System, as required by law, he allowed the state to continue depositing her monthly pension payments into a joint account to which he had access. Between March of 2009 and December of 2013, siphoned off more than $200,000 in pension payments that he knew were being fraudulently issued to his deceased mother. (”My mother? Oh, she’s indisposed. Can I take a message?”)

New York doesn’t take these types of crimes lying down. Its ‘Operation Integrity’ initiative, which assembles investigative resources from the Attorney General’s and the Comptroller’s Office of Investigations to weed out the waste and abuse of public funds, has produced countless convictions and more than $11 million in restitution. In fact, the ‘Operation Integrity’ investigation of this particular pension fraud left the scheming son indicted for third-degree grand larceny by a state grand jury and incarcerated since June of last year. (With cooperation from the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia, where the son was residing.)

Later, an Albany County Court judge issued the defendant a deferred sentence of three to six years in state prison and sentenced him to parole. Facing a civil lawsuit from the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System, the defendant agreed to a judgment that requires him to pay the agency $204,315.

This man exploited his dead mother to steal money from the government—hundreds of thousands of dollars that was never meant for a deceased person, who’s probably rolling over in her grave.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on, ”AG, Comptroller: Man collected dead mother’s state pension,” written by Rick Karlin and published by Albany Times Union March 15, 2016.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced the conviction and sentence of Richard L. Cook, III, 58, a resident of Atlanta, GA, for the crime of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, for stealing over $204,000 in state pension benefits issued to his deceased mother.

A joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau and the Office of the New York State Comptroller revealed that Cook, who served as executor to his mother’s estate, failed to notify the Retirement System of her death. Instead, Cook routinely accessed the pension funds deposited into a joint account he had held with his mother and liquidated approximately $3,500 per month in pension benefits between March 2009 through December 2013. All told, Cook stole over $200,000.00 in pension benefits over that time period. He was indicted for the theft by an Albany County grand jury in April of 2015, and has been incarcerated since June of 2015.

Today, before Albany County Court Judge Peter A. Lynch, Cook was sentenced to parole with a deferred sentence of three to six years in state prison. Cook also agreed to a judgment in favor of the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System in the amount of $204,315.76.

The case is the latest joint investigation under the Operation Integrity partnership between the Attorney General and Comptroller, which has resulted in dozens of convictions and more than $11 million in restitution.

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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.