TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that a Hudson County woman was indicted for allegedly stealing approximately $272,223 by fraudulently collecting her father’s Social Security, permanent disability, and pension benefits for over 12 years after he died.
Sylvia Wilkerson, 67, of Jersey City, N.J., was indicted yesterday by a state grand jury on charges of second-degree theft by deception, second-degree theft by unlawful taking, and fourth-degree forgery. The charges stem from an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Social Security Administration and the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.
It is alleged that after Wilkerson’s father died in September 2004, Wilkerson fraudulently continued to collect her father’s Social Security benefits, his Second Injury Fund workers’ compensation permanent disability benefits, and his pension benefits. The benefits were direct-deposited into a bank account in her father’s name. After his death, Wilkerson allegedly withdrew a significant majority of the benefit money that was deposited each month into the account via ATM withdrawals. In 2006, she allegedly changed the address on the account from her father’s address to her own home address. Wilkerson allegedly continued to submit required annual re-certification forms for the Second Injury Fund and pension benefits, forging her father’s name and identifying herself as “preparer” on the Second Injury Fund forms. From September 2004 through January 2017, Wilkerson allegedly stole a total of approximately $109,716 in Social Security benefits, $147,312 in Second Injury Fund benefits, and $15,195 in Joint Industry Pension Board benefits.
“We allege that Wilkerson deviously stole over a quarter of a million dollars in benefits from Social Security, a workers’ comp program for the disabled, and an industry pension plan, all of which supported her father financially while he was alive,” said Attorney General Porrino. “We’ll aggressively prosecute alleged con artists like Wilkerson, who are a costly drain on these vital financial safety nets.”
“By prosecuting offenders like Wilkerson, we deliver a strong message that this type of fraud won’t be tolerated,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We urge anyone with information about this type of scam to contact us or the Social Security Administration.”
“The Social Security OIG is committed to investigating all forms of suspected Social Security fraud, including alleged deceased beneficiary fraud,” said John Grasso, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Social Security OIG’s New York Field Division. “We thank the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office and the Division of Criminal Justice for their assistance in this case and other investigations.”
Attorney General Porrino and Director Honig noted that members of the public can report fraud or abuse involving the Social Security program by calling the Social Security Administration’s fraud hotline at 800-269-0271 or the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice at 866-TIPS-4CJ.
Deputy Attorney General Jacalyn M. Estrada presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. The case was investigated by Special Agents of the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General and Detective James Gallo of the Division of Criminal Justice. Attorney General Porrino thanked the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General under the direction of John F. Grasso, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Division, for its investigation and referral.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Hudson County, where Wilkerson will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment on the charges.
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