A Georgia woman has been sentenced to over one year in federal prison and ordered to pay full restitution after admitting to stealing over $450,000 in government money from her deceased relative’s bank account, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced.
50-year-old Sandra Smith, a resident of Morrow, Georgia, received her sentencing this week after pleading guilty to two federal counts of theft of government funds back in July.
The incident started over 17 years ago, when Smith’s mother-in-law, Minnie (a longtime resident of Brooklyn), passed away in Georgia on Sept. 14, 2006.
According to the investigation, after Minnie’s passing, Smith — who served as her mother-in-law’s caretaker and handled her finances — did not notify the New York state retirement system or the Social Security Administration about her relative’s death.
Instead, DiNapoli says that Smith kept her Brooklyn mother-in-law’s bank account open and continued to receive funds from the NY state retirement system and SSA.
According to evidence, Smith accessed her dead relative’s bank account online and transferred any deposited government funds into her own personal accounts, in which she would either withdraw the money as cash or further send it to other accounts in her control.
Between 2006 and 2021, over $264,000 in retirement system payments and more than $194,000 in Social Security payments were reportedly deposited into Minnie’s bank account before it was ultimately discovered that she had passed away, DiNapoli said.
“The defendant callously exploited her mother-in-law’s death in an effort to defraud New York’s retirement system and the Social Security Administration,” said DiNapoli. “Thanks to the work of my investigative team, U.S. Attorney Buchanan, and the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, she has been held accountable.”