Couple conceals father's death to steal benefits

Posted at 5:16 PM, May 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-10 20:16:45-04

A husband and wife who concealed the death of her father so they could steal $100,000 in Social Security retirement benefits pleaded guilty Tuesday in San Diego to theft charges.

Terry Lee Anderson, 70, and Melanie Jane Anderson, 65, are scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 15 by U.S. District Judge Marilyn Huff.

According to court documents, Melanie's father, Mervin Hartman, died in January 2002 while living in the Philippines.

Normally, the Social Security Administration automatically ceases payments upon the death of a retiree, but in Hartman's case no death certificate or other notification was filed due to his death overseas.

As a result, Social Security continued to directly deposit monthly retirement benefits through 2013, at which time a federal investigation uncovered his death.

The investigation revealed that Hartman's bank account had been kept active after his death, and that the only people who had accessed the account and withdrawn funds were the Andersons, who were then living in the Southern District of California.

In entering their guilty pleas, the defendants -- who now live in Watauga, Texas -- admitted that they had concealed Hartman's death from the Social Security Administration and his bank.

They also admitted that they specifically knew Hartman's retirement benefits should not have continued after his death, and that they stole the money for their own use.

As part of their plea agreement, the Andersons agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $95,877 to the Social Security Administration.