Taking Advantage of Granny


It’s common to hear about fraudsters who take advantage of deceased family members to collect government benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of the Inspector General reports that in 2015, 529 deceased payee fraud cases were closed and 210 payee fraud cases led to criminal convictions. The agency recovered $34 million in the process. A trucker from Michigan tried to drive away with his granny’s Social Security benefits for a decade, but the government put the brakes on his illegal scheme.

The man simply didn’t report his grandmother’s death to the SSA, who commonly learns about deaths either through families, funeral homes or state reporting systems. (For example, when investigators examine Medicare data and find that an elderly person has not used their Medicare benefits in a while, that raises a red flag.)

In this case, the grandson continued to receive about $12,000 a year for 10 years. (He forged his grandmother’s benefit checks.)

The 40-year-old man was sentenced to probation for his decade of criminal acts. (He apparently apologized and agreed to return the money.) On top of the probation, he was also ordered to do community service by serving in a local church kitchen.

The government is often seen as an easy target for fraud. Light sentences like the one ordered in this case don’t help. While prison is considered more appropriate for people who are a threat to public safety, another deterrent that might be effective in preventing Social Security fraud would be the loss of the criminal’s own Social Security benefits. (Perhaps that would help to decrease the number of deceased individuals from being victimized.)

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, ”Probation for man who cashed $122K of dead grandma’s Social Security,” published by Detroit Free-Press on June 21, 2016.

A man who didn’t report his grandmother’s death to the Social Security Administration was sentenced to probation Monday for collecting $122,000 in illegal benefits, another light punishment for a crime that rarely results in prison time in eastern Michigan.

Prosecutors sought at least 10 months of confinement for Akili Owens, prison or otherwise. U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts acknowledged the significance of the crime but said prison is more appropriate for people who are a threat to public safety, not a Social Security fraudster.

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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.