District Man Pleads Guilty to Stealing Nearly $200,000 In Federal Retirement Benefits
Deceased Father Had Worked for Federal Government
WASHINGTON – Harry Van Jackson, 69, of Washington, D.C., pled guilty today to a federal charge stemming from his theft of $199,915 of his deceased father’s retirement benefits, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen, Jr., and Patrick E. McFarland, Inspector General for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
Jackson pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to theft from the government. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the plea carries a potential term of imprisonment of 12 to 18 months. As part of his plea agreement, Jackson agreed to pay $199,915 in restitution. He also could be subject to the same amount in forfeiture, and other financial penalties. The Honorable Beryl A. Howell set sentencing for Sept. 11, 2015.
According to the government’s factual proffer, OPM, among other duties, manages pension benefits for retired employees of the United States 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 allowed for the annuitant’s surviving spouse to continue to receive a reduced amount of benefits throughout the spouse’s lifetime.
There is no benefit under CSRS for surviving children older than 18 (unless the child was incapable of self-support due to a mental or physical disability that existed prior to age 18).
Jackson’s father retired from the U.S. Government on July 10, 1981, after 38 years of federal service. At the time of his death, on Aug. 23, 2004, Mr. Jackson’s father was receiving approximately $1,400 per month in annuity benefits from CSRS; this amount increased due to cost of living adjustments to approximately $1,770 per month by October 2014. These benefits were automatically deposited into a bank account solely in the father’s name.
Jackson was not entitled to any of his father’s benefits under CSRS, in that he was not a retired federal employee or spouse, he was not a surviving child younger than 18 when his father died, and did not suffer from a mental or physical disability that existed prior to the age of 18.
In October 2014, OPM sent an Address Verification Letter to the attention of Jackson’s father to his last known address in the District of Columbia, requesting confirmation that the annuity payments were going to the right person at the correct address. The letter enclosed an Annuitant’s Response form, which provided a section for confirmation from the CSRS annuitant, and a section for a response if the annuitant was deceased. A short time later, OPM received a response, purportedly signed by the father, confirming the annuity and Social Security number, and other information. This section for the deceased annuitant was not completed.
From the date of Jackson’s father’s death to October 2014, CSRS annuity payments continued to be made to the father’s bank account, totaling approximately $199,915. Jackson used this money, by accessing ATMs and by writing checks signing his father’s signature.
In announcing the plea, Acting U.S. Attorney Cohen and Inspector General McFarland expressed appreciation for the work performed by OPM’s Office of Inspector General. They also acknowledged the efforts of Paralegal Specialist Corinne Kleinman, Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane Lucas, who assisted with forfeiture issues, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia Cheatham, who is prosecuting the case.