Daughter of Former Federal Employees Sentenced to Prison For Stealing Over $700,000 in Retirement Benefits
Defendant Scammed OPM
WASHINGTON – Stephanie Carethers, 47, of Capitol Heights, Md., was sentenced today to 15 months in prison for taking approximately $702,000 in federal retirement pension benefits after her mother’s death, announced U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips and Norbert E. Vint, Acting Inspector General for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
Carethers pled guilty in March 2016, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to a charge of first-degree theft. She was sentenced by the Honorable Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. Following her prison term, Carethers will be placed on three years of supervised release. She also must pay $668,934 in restitution. Other losses earlier were recovered.
According to a statement of offense submitted at the time of the plea and signed by the defendant, OPM manages pension benefits for retired employees of the U.S. government. The Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) is a retirement system covering federal employees who entered covered federal service before Jan. 1, 1987. Upon retirement from civil service, the federal employees covered by CSRS become CSRS annuitants and are entitled to CSRS benefits throughout their lifetimes. In addition, a CSRS annuitant has the option to elect a survivor benefit for his/her spouse; if selected, a spousal benefit allows for the annuitant’s surviving spouse to continue to receive a reduced amount of benefits throughout the spouse’s lifetime.
OPM pays retirement annuity benefits to the retired federal government employee only during his/her lifetime; payments cease upon the employee’s death. OPM pays survivor annuity benefits to the annuitant’s spouse only during his/her lifetime; payments cease upon the spouse’s death.
The defendant’s mother worked for the federal government from 1941 to 1986. From 1941 to 1945, she worked for the Executive Office of the President for Emergency Management, and then worked for the U.S. State Department from 1945 to 1986. She died on April 23, 2001. The defendant’s father also worked for the U.S. government until his retirement in June 1986. He died on March 7, 2002, surviving his wife by about one year.
Although Carethers notified Maryland’s Division of Vital Records that her mother died, she did not notify OPM. Unaware of the death, OPM paid approximately $495,967 in retirement annuity benefits from 2001 until March 2010 by way of direct deposits into a SunTrust Bank savings account solely in the name of the defendant’s parents.
Although Carethers likewise notified Maryland’s Division of Vital Records that her father died on March 7, 2002, she did not notify OPM. However, OPM learned of his death and suspended his retirement annuity benefits in July 2002. Carethers subsequently called OPM’s Office of Retirement Programs, identifying herself as the daughter. She requested that survivor annuity benefits application forms be sent to her mother, not disclosing that her mother actually was deceased. She then caused an application to be sent to OPM fraudulently requesting survivor annuity benefits for her mother; the application contained the forged signature of her mother. Because her mother was deceased, she was not eligible for survivor annuity benefits. Based on this application and unaware of the death of the defendant’s mother, OPM paid approximately $206,982 in survivor annuity benefits. These payments were directly deposited into a SunTrust Bank checking account solely in the name of the defendant’s parents.
From 2001 to 2010, Carethers used the fraudulently obtained payments that OPM sent after her mother’s death to buy items and services for herself and others.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Phillips and Acting Inspector General Vint expressed appreciation for the work performed by Special Agents and analysts from OPM’s Office of Inspector General. They also acknowledged the efforts of those who are working on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialist Kaitlyn Krueger and Assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia Cheatham, who prosecuted the case.