Updated to include the response of North Shore Community College.
An Andover man, employed by North Shore Community College and living on the campus of Andover’s Phillips Academy, pleaded guilty today to stealing more than $149,000 in government benefits.
Graeme Griffith, 60, Morton House, Phillips Academy, 23 School St., Andover, pleaded guilty to theft of public money. U.S. District Court Senior Judge Mark L. Wolf scheduled sentencing for April 16. Griffith is listed as academic counselor, enrollment and student records, at North Shore Community College, Danvers.
Griffith was placed on administrative leave today from his job at North Shore Community College, according to Linda Brantley, college spokesperson.
“When we learned of this matter, we immediately put him on administrative leave pending an internal review of the matter,” she said.
In 2003, Griffith’s father died, but his monthly Social Security benefits continued to be directly deposited into a joint bank account in his and Griffith’s names, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston. From 2003 to 2014, Griffith continued to receive his deceased father’s benefits totaling $149,285.
This case was brought as part of an ongoing effort by the United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz in partnership with the Social Security Administration to investigate and prosecute the posthumous fraud of Social Security benefits. In many of these cases, family members, knowing they are not entitled to government benefits, continue to withdraw and spend the funds after a relative has died.
One of the ways the Social Security Administration detects this kind of fraud is through the Medicare Non-Utilization Project, in which the agency investigates people receiving benefits who are at least 90 years old and who have not used their Medicare Part B benefits for three or more years. In some instances, the agency learns that such a person is actually deceased, but a surviving child has continued to take the deceased person’s benefits.
Since October, 2013, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has prosecuted several such cases involving a total of more than $1 million in stolen government money:
In October, 2013, John Flaherty, of Newburyport, was sentenced to 10 months in prison and was ordered to pay $168,830 in restitution for taking his deceased mother’s Social Security benefits, which were directly deposited into a joint bank account after her death in 1993.