News and Press Releases

Turtle Creek Man Pleads Guilty To Stealing Social Security Benefits Of Woman He Buried In Their Backyard

June 1, 2010

PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Acting United States Attorney Robert S. Cessar announced today, June 1, 2010, that Kenneth A. Zang, a resident of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of Theft of Government Property.

Zang, age 59, pleaded guilty to one count before United States District Judge Terrence McVerry.

In connection with the guilty plea, Assistant United States Attorney Carolyn J. Bloch advised the court that from November 2004 through July 2008, Zang converted to his own use approximately $34,000.00 in Social Security retirement benefits which had been paid to Mary Whetsell, Zang's companion, after her death in October 2004.

Zang admitted that he found Whetsell, in the Turtle Creek home that they shared, shortly after her death.  Later that evening, he buried her in the backyard without telling anyone she had died.  He continued to collect and spend the monthly Social Security benefits that were deposited into Whetsell's checking account.  Her death and burial came to the attention of the Turtle Creek Police in July 2008 when Whetsell's estranged son, Howard Whetsell, came looking for her.

Judge McVerry scheduled sentencing for October 1, 2010, at 1:00 p.m.  The law provides for a total sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both.  Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

The Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Zang.

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