There are a number of ways to be charged with a federal crime, and stealing is one of them, especially when it involves stealing checks from the government. Fraud, which includes claiming the identity of someone else, can lead to serious charges when taken to court, especially when the fraud has allegedly been taking place over the course of decades like in this case. This woman faces up to 10 years in prison for reportedly taking her mother's Social Security checks for around 30 years; the federal crime could place her in jail until she's over 80 years old.
How did this happen to this woman? The report from May 8 reports that the 71-year-old woman has been charged with continuing to cash checks from the Social Security Administration after her mother's death in 1983. She is now accused of stealing more than $520,000 from the government over the last 30 years.
This case is interesting, because when someone dies, most databases should be updated, and checks like these should stop. When they aren't, the Social Security Administration does have the right to ask for repayment. However, the woman continued to receive these checks for decades. The Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General has reported that it only knew about the fraud because it had tried to arrange an interview with the 71-year-old woman's deceased mother.
Why the woman continued to cash the checks isn't clear. It very well could have been a miscommunication or misunderstanding, but the 71-year-old is now facing serious time. She could be imprisoned for up to 10 years and faces a $250,000 fine. She has pleaded guilty, according to the news, and allegedly reported that she would willingly repay the $523,000 she cashed to the Social Security Administration.
Source: Independent Record, "Feds: Woman stole dead mom's checks for 30 years" No author given, May. 08, 2014