SAN DIEGO - Two women -- including a San Diego County resident -- pleaded guilty in unrelated cases this week to stealing nearly $300,000 in Social Security benefits intended for their parents, who died years earlier.
According to court documents, Pamela Anita Thomas' father began receiving Social Security retirement benefits via direct deposit into his bank account in 1998. Although her father died in November 2001, Thomas made no effort to notify the Social Security Administration or cancel the direct deposit.
Over more than a decade, Thomas allowed an additional $170,000 in benefits to be deposited into her deceased father's bank account, and then repeatedly transferred the money for her own personal use, according to Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Hill.
Thomas, of Lemon Grove, is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 27.
Darla Ann Ausman's mother began receiving Social Security retirement benefits via direct deposit into her bank account in 1996 and died in May 2007. Ausman also failed to notify the Social Security Administration that the retirement benefits were no longer warranted, and allowed more than $120,000 in benefits to continue to be deposited directly into her deceased mother's bank account, according to Hill.
Both defendants admitted knowing that their respective parent's Social Security retirement benefits should not have continued to be paid after their deaths, federal prosecutors said.
"By collecting benefits that did not belong to them, these defendants took money away from those who need it most, elderly retirees, people with severe illnesses and widows and children of deceased wage earners," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. "This office will continue to investigate and prosecute fraud and waste in these important government programs."
Ausman, of Henderson, Nevada, is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 17.
As part of their plea agreements, Thomas and Ausman agreed to repay all the money that they stole from the Social Security Administration, but each still faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Both were released from custody on bail pending sentencing.