(WNY News Now) – A 50-year-old Georgia woman, Sandra Smith, has been sentenced to over a year in federal prison and ordered to pay full restitution after admitting she stole $459,050 in New York state pension and federal social security payments from her deceased mother-in-law’s bank account.
NY – Sandra Smith, a resident of Morrow, Georgia, has been sentenced to federal prison for her involvement in a scheme to defraud the New York state retirement system and the Social Security Administration. The 50-year-old woman pleaded guilty to two federal counts of theft of government funds in July, admitting to stealing $459,050 from her deceased mother-in-law’s bank account.
State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan, and Inspector General Gail S. Ennis jointly announced the sentencing and emphasized the severity of Smith’s actions. DiNapoli condemned Smith’s exploitation of her mother-in-law’s death, stating, “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.” He credited the investigative efforts of his team, U.S. Attorney Buchanan, and the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General for holding Smith accountable.
U.S. Attorney Buchanan echoed the seriousness of the crime, highlighting that Smith had stolen nearly half a million dollars from two separate government entities. He expressed hope that Smith’s sentence would serve as a deterrent to others engaging in similar fraudulent activities. Inspector General Ennis commended the collaborative efforts of the investigative teams and stressed the criminal nature of Smith’s actions, acknowledging the need for accountability and restitution.
The elaborate scheme began after the death of Smith’s mother-in-law, Minnie Smith, in September 2006. Minnie, a former State Insurance Fund employee, had relocated to Georgia to be closer to family. Sandra Smith, serving as Minnie’s caretaker, had access to her bank account and continued to receive funds from the New York state retirement system and the Social Security Administration for over 15 years after Minnie’s passing.
Rather than reporting Minnie Smith’s death, Sandra Smith submitted a change of address form to the retirement system, purportedly signed by the deceased. The deception allowed Sandra Smith to maintain access to the bank account, where $264,699 in retirement system payments and $194,351 in Social Security payments were deposited between September 2006 and April 2021.
Operating from Morrow, Georgia, Sandra Smith accessed the bank account online and orchestrated the transfer of pension and social security funds into her personal accounts. The funds were then either withdrawn as cash or further transferred to other accounts under her control.
In July, Sandra Smith pleaded guilty to federal charges, acknowledging her theft of government funds. As part of her sentencing, she is required to serve over a year in federal prison and pay full restitution, amounting to $459,050. This includes $264,699 owed to the New York state retirement system and $194,351 to the Social Security Administration.