Memories Live On

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When faced with death, it’s hard to say goodbye to a loved one. But, survivors can be comforted by good memories of their dearly departed through pictures and personal items. A former New Jersey man continued to be reminded of his deceased wife each month as her Social Security Disability check was illegally deposited into her bank account. (As you might guess, he failed to notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) that his wife had died and the benefits kept rolling in.)

Further research into the case revealed that the woman had originally applied for SSA Disability Insurance Benefits due to an illness that prevented her from working. (The Disability Insurance Benefits program assists qualified beneficiaries who have serious mental or physical impairments by replacing some of their lost earnings.) Once she was approved to participate in the program, the benefits were electronically deposited into her banking account.

The husband, who did not alert the SSA of his wife’s death in a timely manner, collected $82,854 in disability benefits for more than four years. Apparently, the man accessed his deceased wife’s account on multiple occasions and used the funds for his own personal expenses. (It’s interesting to note that the man left New Jersey, where he formerly served as a councilman in his hometown, to move to Puerto Rico. Perhaps some of those illegally-gained benefits were used to move to his new Caribbean abode where he could make some new memories.)

The SSA benefits were eventually converted into retirement insurance benefits – which are not transferrable – when the woman would have turned 65. (Nothing is free forever.)The husband eventually admitted to not informing the government about his wife’s death and pleaded guilty to stealing government money. He currently faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced.

At 64, this man is probably wishing he had notified the SSA of his wife’s death. It’s hard to tell what his sentence will be, but it’s a good guess that he’s about to experience some bad memories he won’t ever forget.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, ”Former councilman admits stealing dead wife’s Social Security benefits,” published on NJ.com on October 13, 2016.

TRENTON — A former Long Branch city councilman pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to a charge he collected his dead wife’s Social Security disability checks for more than four years after her death.

Brian Unger, now of Rincon, Puerto Rico, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Trenton to a single charge of stealing government money, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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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.