Husband and Wife Conceal Death of Parent for More Than a Decade to Steal Social Security Retirement Benefits
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey D. Hill (619) 546-7924
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – May 10, 2016
SAN DIEGO – Terry Lee Anderson and Melanie Jane Anderson of Watauga, Texas, pleaded guilty today in federal court to theft charges, admitting they concealed the death of Melanie’s father, Mervin Hartman, thereby stealing approximately $100,000 in Social Security retirement benefits.
According to court documents, Mervin Hartman died in January 2002 while living in the Philippines. Normally, the Social Security Administration automatically ceases payments upon the death of a retiree, but in this case no death certificate or other notification was provided due to Hartman’s death overseas. As a result, the Social Security Administration continued to directly deposit monthly retirement benefits through 2013 – at which time the SSA/OIG investigation uncovered his death overseas.
The investigation revealed that Hartman’s bank account had been kept active after his death, and that the only people who had accessed the account and withdrawn the funds were the Andersons, who were then living in the Southern District of California.
In entering their guilty pleas, each of the defendants admitted that they had concealed Mervin Hartman’s death from the Social Security Administration and from his bank. They also admitted that they specifically knew Hartman’s retirement benefits should not have continued after his death, and that they stole the money and converted it to their own use.
As a part of their plea agreement, the Andersons agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $95,877.78 to the Social Security Administration. Both are scheduled to be sentenced on August 15, 2016, before U.S. District Judge Marilyn L. Huff.
DEFENDANT Criminal Case No. 16cr1002-H
Terry Lee Anderson Watauga, TX Age: 70
Melanie Jane Anderson Watauga, TX Age: 65
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Theft of Public Property – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 641
Maximum penalty: 10 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine
Social Security Administration / Office of Inspector General