Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Man Sentenced for Taking Dead Mother's Benefits for 40 Years

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Man Sentenced for Taking Dead Mother's Benefits for 40 Years

Article excerpt

Chauncey Clinton didn't ask the judge for leniency. He waved off the standard six weeks on bond before reporting to prison. At the end of his sentencing hearing, he took off his tie, and offered his hands for cuffing.

"I'm 65 years old, and I'm guilty," the Ross resident told U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak Thursday. Having lived a double life for 40 years -- data clerk and proud father on one hand, moocher of benefits meant for his dead mother on the other -- he wanted to start his 18 months of penance in prison immediately.

"I find this case completely confounding," Judge Hornak said, after directing as many questions at the Social Security Administration agent as he did at Clinton.

Clinton's mother, Clara, died on May 7, 1973, and he promptly canceled the regular Social Security benefits she had been receiving. But he never stopped the survivors benefits she had been getting in relation to the earlier death of his father, allowing roughly 475 monthly payments totaling $302,803 to flow to him.

"When my mother passed and the checks continued to come, I thought I should get them to stop," Clinton told Judge Hornak.

But while Clinton worked for Alcoa and raised two daughters, he let the benefits keep on flowing. "The bills were there," he said. "The second life I lived was of dishonesty and shameful behavior."

"He did not make any attempt to stop the train," said Clinton's defense lawyer, Frank Moore. "To do this for the amount of time he did, it's just egregious."

In April, the Social Security Administration finally realized that Clara was long gone. Once contacted by federal authorities, Clinton cooperated fully and pleaded guilty.

Assistant U.S. attorney Mary McKeen Houghton called it one of the largest such cases in Western Pennsylvania history.

Judge Hornak didn't seem to think that federal law enforcement had much to crow about. …

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