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Press Release

Herkimer County Woman Sentenced to 24 Months for Stealing Social Security Funds

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of New York
Hid Dead Body in a Dog Crate as Part of Scheme to Steal Benefits

BINGHAMTON, NEW YORK – TammyLynn Sterling Barthelmess, age 62, of Little Falls, New York, was sentenced today to serve 24 months (two years) in federal prison for her guilty pleas to Conspiracy to Steal Government Funds and three Counts of Bank Fraud, announced United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith, Special Agent in Charge John Grasso-Social Security Administration-Office of the Inspector General (“SSA-OIG”), New York Field Division, and New York State Police Superintendent Keith Corlett.

The sentence imposed today followed the defendant’s guilty plea during trial on February 26, 2020, in which Barthelmess admitted that she conspired from 2009 to 2013 with her daughter, Shannon Hardy Sekel, to conceal the death of D.W., a tenant of hers (Barthelmess) in Little Falls, New York. Barthelmess and others caused the body of D.W. to remain hidden until it was discovered in Little Falls on May 1, 2013, in an advanced state of decomposition inside a dog crate behind an unoccupied house owned by the defendant. Following the death of D.W., TammyLynn Sterling Barthelmess and Shannon Hardy Sekel used the checking account of D.W. to steal Social Security retirement benefits that were deposited in the account each month. The defendant and Sekel wrote hundreds of checks from D.W.’s checking account until the payments stopped in May 2013 following the discovery of D.W.’s body. As a further part of her previous guilty plea, Barthelmess admitted to making false statements to New York State Police Investigators who interviewed her after D.W.s skeletonized remains were located and reported to the City of Little Falls (New York) Police on May 1, 2013.

In imposing sentence today, Barthelmess was also ordered to serve a three-year term of supervised release following completion of her prison sentence, and ordered to pay restitution to the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) in the amount of $110,910.00.

Shannon Hardy Sekel, the defendant’s daughter, previously pled guilty to Conspiracy to Steal Government Money and Bank Fraud. Her sentencing is scheduled for August 19, 2020 in Binghamton, New York.

This case was investigated by the United States Social Security Administration-Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG”), the New York State Police, and the City of Little Falls Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tamara B. Thomson and Richard R. Southwick, with assistance from the Herkimer County District Attorney’ Office.

Updated April 18, 2023

Financial Fraud