News and Press Releases

Woman Continued to Cash Pension Checks for nearly Twenty Years after Mother’s Death

April 28, 2006

JOANNE LYNETTE VAN DYKE, 76, of Bothell, Washington was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to up to four months of home detention, 50 hours of community service and $215,585.55 in restitution for Theft of Public Money. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman required VAN DYKE to do the community service saying, “I want you to have some contact with your community so you can hold your head high and say ‘I gave back.’”

VAN DYKE pleaded guilty to the charge January 17, 2006. According to documents filed in the case, VAN DYKE’s father was a federal employee who received pension benefits until his death in March, 1977. As part of the federal pension program, VAN DYKE’s mother continued to receive a spousal survival pension benefit. VAN DYKE’s mother died in November, 1984 but the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was never notified of her death. Instead, for nearly 20 years, VAN DYKE continued to receive and cash her mother’s pension checks. The total VAN DYKE illegally received through August 2003 was more than $215,000.

In order to perpetuate the scheme, VAN DYKE had to forge her mother’s signature on the checks and made false declarations on various forms confirming her mother’s address. In fact the forms instructed the filer to notify OPM if the claimant had died. Instead, VAN DYKE filled out the forms as if her mother was still living and forged her mother’s signature.

Federal investigators uncovered VAN DYKE’s theft when the Center for Retirement and Insurance Services (CRIS) scanned their records for all federal recipients aged 90 and over. VAN DYKE’s mother would have been 106 at the time of the review. Investigators obtained a death certificate from the State of Washington confirming that VAN DYKE’s mother had died in 1984.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG), U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), has engaged in an on-going proactive effort to identify fraud involving the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Investigators paid particular attention to some 400 annuitants or their survivors born in the 1800s. This initiative identified 118 federal retirement annuity cases where the annuity payments continued to be paid after the annuitant had died. In 56 of the cases, the federal annuitants were identified as being between the ages of 100 and 114 years old. It was determined that the annuity payments for those 118 deceased annuitants amounted to over $10.5 million, an average of over $89,016 per deceased annuitant.

Although many of these cases continue to be investigated, the OIG and the local U.S. Attorney’s offices have successfully pursued prosecution in a number of cases that included indictments and convictions, as well as restitution. “This case represents the successful cooperation between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and OPM-OIG,” stated Inspector General Patrick E. McFarland.

The case was investigated by the Office of Personnel Management- Office of Inspector General (OPM-OIG) and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Dion. For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs.

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