Feds: Woman stole dead mother's benefits for 15 years

ATLANTA — A Norcross woman has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for collecting her dead mother’s retirement benefits for 15 years.

Both of Deborah West’s parents were federal employees who received retirement benefits, authorities said. After West’s father passed away in 1980, his benefits were legally transferred to her mother. She then passed away in 1993.

“At that time, all of the benefits should have ended,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta. “However, the federal government never learned of the death and continued to pay the benefits directly to the mother’s bank account. The defendant stole those benefits by writing checks to herself from her deceased mother’s account, forging her mother’s signature and keeping the money for herself.”

West, 64, collected more than $398,000 of her mother’s federal benefits between 1993 and 2008. On Wednesday, the Norcross resident was sentenced to 18 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised released. She will also pay full restitution.

“Federal employees work hard to earn retirement benefits to support them during their golden years,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement. “For 15 years this defendant shamelessly stole from the federal government system, taking what she never worked for and never earned.”