Robert Wayne Lulow Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
Bill Mercer, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, announced today that during a federal court session in Missoula on February 9, 2009, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch, ROBERT WAYNE LULOW, a 64-year-old resident of Ronan, pled guilty to Social Security fraud/theft. Sentencing is set for May 8, 2009. He is currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by the United States, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
L.D.L. began receiving Social Security retirement insurance benefit payments in September 1978, based upon her husband's earnings. When he passed away in April 2004, the benefits changed to surviving spouse's benefits.
L.D.L. passed away on November 5, 2004. The Social Security Administration was not advised of L.D.L.'s death.
As of April 3, 2007, SSA was still depositing $607 per month into her account with Community Bank in Ronan, an account which she held jointly with her son, ROBERT LULOW.
Between December 2004 and April 2007, SSA made 29 deposits, totaling $16,939.40, into L.D.L.'s account with Community Bank. The posthumously deposited funds in the account were expended regularly through a series of checks and telephone transactions. The final account statement, covering the period of March 20, 2007, through April 16, 2007, showed a final account balance of $54.88.
When interviewed, LULOW initially indicated that he contacted SSA in Missoula to report the death after noticing the ongoing deposits. LULOW estimated that he made this call in February 2005. Prior to February 2005, LULOW had spent $1,100 of the $1,140.40 deposited by SSA. LULOW conceded that he had financial problems around the time of his mother's death due to a failed business. He stated that he regularly transferred the funds deposited into this account for his mother to his own personal account with Community Bank. He made the transfers by writing a check or by a telephonic transaction and then used the funds for his own personal expenses.
LULOW further stated that he "used and abused" his mother's money and that he "misused my mom's funds" despite the fact that he knew they should have ceased upon her death. LULOW maintained that he intended to repay SSA when he was back on his feet financially.
LULOW faces possible penalties of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl E. Rostad prosecuted the case for the United States.
The investigation was conducted by the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General.
The "Pennies from Heaven Project" is a cooperative initiative of the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney's Office which targets fraud in social security programs, particularly with regard to the theft of social security benefits by relatives and others of deceased beneficiaries. Through vigorous prosecution of offenders, the agencies seek to protect the integrity of the social security program and insure that such benefits go only to those qualified and entitled to receive them. To report all suspected social security fraud, please call 1-800-269-0271.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.