TRENTON, N.J. – A Perth Amboy, New Jersey, man today admitted stealing Social Security benefits that were mistakenly paid to his deceased great aunt, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Lance D. Nelson, 56, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson in Trenton federal court to Count 1 of an indictment charging him with theft of government funds.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Nelson’s great aunt received Social Security retirement benefits that were sent to a joint bank account that she shared with Nelson. The Social Security Administration, unaware of her death in February 1998, continued to issue her monthly retirement benefits.
Nelson admitted that he intentionally failed to notify the Social Security Administration of her death so that he could continue to receive her benefits, which he withdrew from their joint account and used for his personal benefit. In total, Nelson, who was employed as an assistant zoning officer for the City of Perth Amboy through the end of 2017, admitted today that he took $184,936 in Social Security benefits to which he was not entitled.
The charge to which Nelson pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of his plea agreement, Nelson must forfeit the $184,936 he stole from the Social Security Administration. Sentencing is scheduled for April 17, 2018.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents with the Social Security Administration - Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge John F. Grasso of the New York Field Division, with the investigation leading to today’s plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark J. McCarren and Cari Fais of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
Defense counsel: Carol Gillen Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark