Portion of Social Security check. Image via ncpssm.org

A San Diego man who stole nearly $272,000 in Social Security retirement benefits intended for his father, who died in 1997, was sentenced Monday to a year and one day in federal prison and ordered to repay the money.

Abel Jose Perez, 55, admitted that instead of informing the Social Security Administration of his father’s death, he continued to take benefits that had been deposited into a bank account in his deceased parents’ names.

Soon after each month’s deposit from Social Security, Perez would forge his father’s signature on a bank check made payable to himself, and divert the funds for his own personal use, prosecutors said.

“The theft of Social Security benefits is a direct attack on the most vulnerable and needy members of our community,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson. “Every dime of stolen benefits reduces the funds available to our retirees and other beneficiaries.”

The Social Security Administration pays retirement benefits to eligible retired workers, aged 62 or better, and to their eligible dependents. Although the widow or the minor child of a deceased retiree can receive posthumous benefits, Perez admitted that he knew he was not entitled to receive any of the money paid out by Social Security after his father’s death.

Perez admitted during his guilty plea last May that for more than 16 years, he retained exclusive access to and controlled a bank account belonging to his deceased parents, enabling him to illegally convert more than a quarter- million dollars of public money to his own use.

— City News Service

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