Taco Bell Franchisee Doesn’t Tell Social Security About Dead Mom For 23 Years, Collects $200K

In the process of dealing with the death of a parent, it might be forgivable if you overlook some paperwork and the Social Security folks send out a benefits check meant for the deceased. But when you deliberately hide this death for two decades while collecting nearly $200,000 that doesn’t belong to you, you’re probably going to jail.

This is the lesson recently learned by a Taco Bell franchisee in Bellevue, WA, who recently pleaded guilty to charges that he fraudulently kept collecting his mother’s Social Security benefits long after her death in 1989. He’s also been accused of stealing $100,000 in pension benefits from the state of Ohio.

The man claims that he was in dire financial straits at the time of his mother’s death. Even though he’s since become a fast food entrepreneur and carved out a good life for himself — his net worth is reportedly around $4 million, including about $431,000 in cash — he says there was no way for him to stop receiving his mom’s benefits without making his fraud obvious.

“While none of this is offered to excuse or attempt to justify [the defendant’s crime, it simply describes a desperate, but good man, who saw an opportunity to provide for his family’s health in 1989, when he was at his lowest point, and took it,” explains his attorney. “Like making a deal with the devil, however, once that decision was made there was no way out.”

The federal prosecutor in the case took particular issue with the fact that the defendant reaped in all these payments while earning millions through his Taco Bells.

“Social Security fraud cases often involve genuinely impoverished persons who steal to improve an otherwise desperate existence,” said the U.S. Attorney. “Here, however, [the defendant] has had a lucrative business career as the owner of fast food restaurants and real estate.”

The 70-year-old now faces six months in jail for his 23 years of illegally benefiting off his dead mother’s name.

Bellevue Taco Bell owner hid mom’s death for decades to steal benefits [SeattlePI.com]