TRENTON –Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a Hudson County woman was sentenced today for stealing approximately $272,000 by fraudulently collecting her father’s Social Security, permanent disability, and pension benefits for over 12 years after he died.
Sylvia Wilkerson, 68, of Jersey City, N.J., was sentenced to five years of probation by Superior Court Judge Mirtha Ospina in Hudson County. Wilkerson was ordered to pay full restitution and perform 50 hours of community service. The state had requested that the sentence include six months in the county jail, but the judge imposed a sentence of noncustodial probation. Wilkerson pleaded guilty on July 2, 2019 to a charge of third-degree theft by deception. She was indicted in 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.
Deputy Attorney General Jamie Picard took the guilty plea and handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.
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 withdrew a significant majority of the benefit money that was deposited each month into the account via ATM withdrawals. In 2006, she changed the address on the account from her father’s address to her own home address. Wilkerson 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 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.
“Fraud of this type drains resources that the Social Security program and other public and private retirement and disability funds need to provide for persons who may have no other source of income,” said Attorney General Grewal. “By investigating and prosecuting offenders like Wilkerson, we send a message that we have zero tolerance for criminals who steal these benefits.”
“We will continue to work closely with our federal partners to maintain vigilance against fraud targeting the Social Security program,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We urge anyone with information about these crimes to contact us.”
Attorney General Grewal and Director Allende 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.
“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.”
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 Grewal 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.
Matthew W. Reisig, Esq., Freehold, N.J.