Jury: Albany man stole deceased mother’s Social Security benefits

An Albany man continued to take Social Security benefits intended for his mother for 13 years after

An Albany man continued to take Social Security benefits intended for his mother for 13 years after she died, a federal jury found Wednesday.

The jury found John E. Szumigata, 69, guilty of theft of government property. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison at his September sentencing.

Szumigata stole the Social Security benefits that continued to be deposited into his mother’s bank account after her 1999 death, prosecutors said.

His mother, Bernice Moros, who formerly lived in Schenectady, died in October 1999 at the age of 82. Her death at a Hudson hospital is recorded in an obituary published at the time in the Gazette.

Moros received survivor benefits from a deceased spouse. Prior prosecution court filings indicate that Social Security officials noted her death in her file, but not in her deceased husband’s file, so those payments continued.

The payments ranged from $509 in 1999 to $673 in 2012. In all, more than $91,000 was deposited after her death.

As the money continued to be deposited after Moros’ death, Szumigata became the sole account holder. Over the years, he withdrew amounts ranging from $3.50 to $24,000.

The Social Security Administration finally became aware of the error in August 2012. They also learned that Szumigata continued to withdraw money from the account.

Szumigata even admitted to investigators that he handled the account and knew the money was erroneously deposited. He told investigators that he realized the funds were Social Security payments, saying he tried to call an “800 number,” according to the prosecution filing.

Szumigata attorney Scott Iseman argued in his own pre-trial motion that his client never made a false report to the government related to his mother’s death and never acted to perpetuate the government’s error. Attorney Michael McDermott is also listed as a defense attorney.

Overall, prosecutors said Szumigata used the money to pay personal expenses and transfer money to a business he owned.

The Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General investigated. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason W. White prosecuted.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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