Sentencing Dead on Arrival

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Social Security exists to help ensure that at-risk populations experience respectable standards of living. The program helps millions of elderly and disabled people throughout the United States. But what happens to their benefits when they pass away? Theoretically payments should cease, however The Portland Journal Tribune reports that a man continued collecting his mother’s Social Security payments for more than three years after her death. (The fact that the payments kept coming, and that this fraudster did not report them, speaks to the character of this man and raises some questions about the agency’s fraud safeguards.)

The story states that once this fraudster’s mother passed away, her Social Security payments did not stop. Although his mother’s death was recorded and properly reported, Social Security Administration officials failed to cross reference the deaths of this fraudster’s parents. Because they believed at least one senior citizen in the fraudster’s family was still alive, payments continued for years. The fraud was only uncovered once law enforcement received an anonymous tip.

Although the fraudster knew he was wrongfully accepting the payments, the story explains that he continued to do so because his family had fallen on financially difficult times. He was the sole financial provider in his family and his wife suffers disabilities of her own. According to the story, the judge took these factors into consideration, and furthermore weighed arguments by the fraudster’s defense attorney that he did not commit premeditated fraud nor improperly apply for benefits.

Nonetheless, the judge also found that this fraudster’s serious offense continued for a significant length of time and his actions were a negative influence on others. As a result, the story states that he has been sentenced to one year and one day in prison, and ordered to pay restitution for the $38,212 he fraudulently received. (The judge, much like this fraudster himself, found that although there were compelling reasons not to do something, it was worth pursuing anyways.)

This case proves that the phrase ”if you see something, say something” doesn’t just apply to protecting people from the physical harm that could result from an object or set of circumstances that look out of place. This fraudster was undone because someone said something about this man’s fraudulent actions, and the justice system prevailed.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”LaPierre sentenced for Social Security fraud,” written by Tammy Wells and published by The Portland Journal Tribune on October 22, 2015.

PORTLAND — A Lyman man has been sentenced to a year in federal prison for continuing to collect his mother’s Social Security benefits for nearly four years after her death.

Mark LaPierre, 56, who pleaded guilty to the federal charge in April, was sentenced Tuesday at U.S. District Court to one year plus one day in prison, followed by two years supervised release. He was ordered to pay restitution of $38,212, the amount he collected in the years following his mother’s death.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.