Judge Sends State College Worker to Jail for Social Security Theft

Carmen M. Ortiz, United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.

An Andover man, employed by North Shore Community College and living on the campus of Andover’s Phillips Academy, was sentenced yesterday to four months in prison, two years of supervised release and a $3,000 fine.

Graeme Griffith, 60, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Senior Judge Mark L. Wolf. Griffith also paid full restitution of $149,285. He had been on administrative leave from his job as academic counselor, enrollment and student records at North Shore Community College after pleading guilty in January.

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 his father’s names. 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 U.S. Attorney’s Office 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 similar cases involving a total of more than $1 million in stolen government money. At that time, 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.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Scott Antolik, special agent in charge of the U.S. Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Boston Field Division, made the announcement Thursday.  Griffith was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Landry of Ortiz’s Major Crimes Unit.