Baltimore, Maryland — U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow today sentenced Wardell Lester, Jr., age 66 of Baltimore, Maryland, to one year in prison, followed by three years under supervision, for theft of government property in connection with the theft of $223,655 in social security benefits intended for his mother.
The verdict was announced by Erek L. Barron, the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland, and Michael McGill, special agent responsible for the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, Philadelphia Field Division (SSA OIG).
Under his plea deal, from September 1997 to January 2018, Lester stole monthly Social Security retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration that were intended for his mother. Lester failed to notify the Social Security Administration that his mother had died in September 1997 and falsely reported that he spent the money on her behalf. As a result of this violation, Lester personally obtained approximately $223,655 from the Social Security Administration to which he was not entitled.
As his mother’s son and representative beneficiary, Lester was charged with spending his mother’s retirement benefits on her behalf and was required to file annual reports documenting transactions using those funds. Each year, Lester provided false reports detailing how he spent the money on food, housing and personal items. In 2012, Lester chose to receive payments via direct deposit into an account in his name. Account records show that Lester would withdraw virtually all money through ATM at the beginning of each month.
As stated in his plea deal, in an interview with SSA OIG agents on January 11, 2019, Lester admitted to spending his mother’s benefits on medications and living expenses. Lester further admitted to falsifying Social Security benefit accounting forms. At the end of the interview, Lester issued a written statement apologizing for the use of the funds, but Lester continued to issue the distributions until SSA terminated them in May 2019.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron praised the SSA OIG for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked US Special Assistant Attorney Michael F. Davio, who has pursued the case.
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