It is fair and true to say that understanding the details of the Social Security system, but violating the terms of receiving benefits is not a wise time to fain ignorance, as one woman learned when she recently received jail time awaiting sentencing for receiving Social Security benefits on behalf of her now-dead grandparents.
According to court documents, the woman allegedly began handling her grandparents finances in 2004 and the benefits for both of them were deposited into a joint account that she managed. In 2006, her grandfather passed away in Haiti, followed by her grandmother in 2009. The woman gave allegedly conflicting accounts of her grandparents whereabouts, and appeared to suggest that they may still be living in Haiti at one point.
Members of the Social Security Administration (SSA) testified that the woman, who came to America in 1987 and became a naturalized citizen, spoke fluent English on several occasions when they interacted with her over a period of several years, but the woman chose to speak in court with the help of a translator, only communicating in Haitian Creole. According to its own responses to her answers, the court did not believe the justifications the woman used to claim that she did not understand if she’d done anything wrong.
It is not always easy to know when a person violates a complex system like Social Security. Before you make some mistakes that may prove very difficult to undo, or if you believe you may have already made such a mistake and need guidance to protect your rights while you resolve the matter, be sure that you understand your legal options thoroughly.
Source: Sun Sentinel, “Woman jailed for stealing dead grandparents’ social security for years,” Paula McMahon, Jan. 24, 2018