Port Angeles Man Forges Paperwork to Get Grandmother’s Federal Benefits Long After Her Death
Filed a Claim Falsely Reporting Grandmother Still Alive and Entitled to Benefits
A Port Angeles man who collected nearly $200,000 by claiming his grandmother was still alive years after her death, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to one year in prison and three years of supervised release, announced Acting United States Attorney Annette L. Hayes. MORGAN MICHAEL HOPKINS, 43, pleaded guilty to Theft of Public Funds in connection with his scheme to collect and use survivor benefits owed to his grandmother. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton noted he had seen a number of similar theft cases. “There’s got to be some residue that reverberates to the community at large - - both to the population that is tempted and the population that is angry about the unprovoked theft of taxpayer money,” Judge Leighton said.
According to records filed in the case, after HOPKINS’ grandmother died in March of 2009, he forged official government documentation – claiming to be his grandmother – and requesting that her federal workers’ compensation death survivor benefits continue. The United States Department of Labor had been paying workers’ compensation survivor benefits to the defendant’s grandmother following the death of her husband, a former federal employee, since about 1968. When the defendant’s grandmother died, the Department of Labor terminated the benefits. However, the defendant fraudulently submitted a sworn verification of benefits statement to the DOL in November of 2009 by forging his grandmother’s name and requesting that the benefits be continued. As a result of receiving the falsified verification of benefits form, the DOL continued paying benefits to the defendant’s grandmother and ultimately paid $196,565 into her bank account after her death. HOPKINS used his grandmother’s debit card and forged his grandmother’s signature on checks so that he could access the money and use it for his own purposes.
In January 2014 the Department of Labor confirmed that HOPKINS’ grandmother had died five years earlier and terminated the payments.
The case was investigated by the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General (DOL-OIG). The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Erin Wilson.