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March 15, 2022

Tennessee woman pleads guilty to receiving deceased mother’s retirement system benefits

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli joined the United States Attorney for Eastern District of Tennessee (EDTN) in announcing that Leslie Schwinzer has pleaded guilty to wire fraud (18 USC. §1343) in the U.S. District Court at Knoxville, TN for stealing $56,352 from the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS). This case was the result of a joint investigation with the Social Security Administration Inspector General’s Office (SSAIG), the EDTN and the Comptroller’s Office.

In February of 2021, SSAIG contacted NYSLRS and informed them that a pension beneficiary, Shirley Conklin, had died on July 3, 2018, and all payments should have stopped after her death. SSAIG also informed NYSLRS that no death certificate had been issued for Conklin’s death, just a police report. After Conklin’s death, she continued to receive both monthly NYSLRS payments and bi-weekly Social Security payments in a joint account with her daughter, Schwinzer, 46, of Madisonville, TN. Schwinzer failed to notify NYSLRS and the Social Security Administration of her mother’s death and was not authorized to receive either payment.

The 31 monthly pension fund payments totaled $56,352 and were deposited into the joint account, with Schwinzer withdrawing that amount in funds. During this same period, Schwinzer took out an additional $35,871 in Social Security payments after her mother’s death that she was not entitled to.

In total, she withdrew approximately $92,223 in NYSLRS and Social Security payments from her mother’s account.

“Ms. Schwinzer hid her mother’s death for two years to steal money from the New York State and Local Retirement System,” DiNapoli said. “I thank the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee and the Social Security Administration Inspector General for working across state lines to assist in our efforts to root out fraud and hold Schwizner accountable.”

Schwinzer was charged with one count of wire fraud (18 USC. §1343) in the EDTN on January 27, 2022. She has agreed to pay $56,352 in restitution to NYSLRS. Sentencing is set for July 14, 2022, in United States District Court for the EDTN at Knoxville.

 

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