Skip to main content
Press Release

Herkimer County Woman Sentenced to Serve 18 Months for Stealing Social Security Funds

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of New York
Shannon Hardy Sekel Conspired with Her Mother to Steal Funds Paid into a Deceased Man’s Checking Account

SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – Shannon Hardy Sekel, age 33, of Herkimer, New York, was sentenced yesterday to serve 18 months in federal prison for her guilty pleas to Conspiracy to Steal Government Funds and 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 yesterday followed the defendant’s guilty plea in May 2018, in which Sekel admitted that she conspired from 2009 to 2013 with her mother, TammyLynn Sterling Barthelmess, to steal the social security benefits paid to D.W., a deceased man whose death was unknown to the Social Security Administration. D.W.’s remains were discovered in an advanced state of decomposition inside a dog-crate behind an unoccupied house owned by TammyLynn Sterling Barthelmess, Sekel’s mother and co-conspirator. Following the death of D.W., Barthelmess and Shannon Hardy Sekel used his checking account to steal Social Security retirement benefits that were deposited in the account each month. Barthelmess and Sekel wrote hundreds of checks from D.W.’s checking account until the payments stopped in May 2013 after his skeletonized remains were found and reported to Little Falls Police. Thereafter, an investigation conducted by the New York State Police and the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General determined that Social Security retirement payments paid into D.W.’s checking account following his death were stolen by Sekel and Barthelmess.

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

Sekel’s co-conspirator, TammyLynn Sterling Barthelmess, pled guilty during trial on February 26, 2020, and was sentenced on August 5, 2020 to serve 24 months in prison, a three (3) year term of supervised release, and ordered to pay (with Sekel) $110,910.00 restitution to the U.S. Social Security Administration.

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 was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tamara B. Thomson and Richard R. Southwick, with assistance from the Herkimer County District Attorney’ Office.

Updated August 20, 2020

Financial Fraud