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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Colorado

Monday, February 10, 2014

Lakewood Man Sentenced To Prison For Taking Dead Aunt's Social Security Benefits For 25 Years

DENVER – John W. Stitt, age 66, of Lakewood, Colorado, was recently sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson to serve one year and a day in federal prison for theft of government funds, U.S. Attorney John Walsh and Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General Special Agent in Charge Wilbert Craig announced.  Following his prison sentence, Stitt was ordered to spend 3 years on supervised release.  He was also ordered to pay restitution to the Social Security Administration, the agency he took the funds from, totaling $236,187.70.  The defendant appeared at the sentencing hearing free on bond, and was ordered to report to a designated prison on a date certain.

Stitt was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on April 25, 2013.  He pled guilty before Judge Jackson on November 7, 2013.  He was sentenced on January 29, 2014.

According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, on October 12, 1986, John Stitt’s aunt, Helen L. Stitt, passed away.  She was 78 years old.  John Stitt was listed as the informant on Helen’s Colorado death certificate.  And since March of 1986, seven months prior to her death, he was added as an authorized signer on Helen’s bank account.  Following Helen’s death, John Stitt continued to collect Social Security retirement benefits that were deposited in Helen’s bank account.  This continued for 25 years – from October 1986 through November, 2011.  During that time, Stitt periodically wrote personal checks bearing his deceased aunt’s name and bank account information to himself and then signed the check himself as an authorized signer.  He then converted these government funds for his personal use or gain.  Stitt failed to notify Social Security that his deceased aunt was still receiving benefit payments following her death.  In total, John Stitt received $236,187.70 in Social Security benefits meant for his deceased aunt, all the while knowing these funds were not intended for him.

“Concealing the death of a loved one in order to steal their Social Security benefits is both despicable and criminal,” said Wilbert Craig, Special Agent in Charge of the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General, Denver Field Division.  “This investigation demonstrates the seriousness with which Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General responds to allegations of fraud against the Social Security Administration (SSA) and its beneficiaries.  Though SSA has worked hard to improve the process by which deaths are reported and recorded, our agency will aggressively pursue the few determined individuals who attempt to defraud our system.  We are pleased with the successful actions of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in bringing this individual to justice.”

This case was investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General’s Office of Investigations. 

Stitt was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Martha A. Paluch.

Updated June 22, 2015