A Detroit woman stole almost $100,000 from a deceased veteran over a seven-year period and she recently turned herself in for the crime.
Every month, the Department of Veterans Affairs would deposit the deceased veteran’s benefits into his bank account and then Wilda Watkins would make a withdrawal using the vet’s ATM cards, WDIV ClickOnDetroit reported.
The big question, which is now being investigated is, how did Watkins get away with this fraud for so long.
Attorney for Watkins, Steven E. Scharg said, “Seven years is a long time. That’s a lot of money they were sending to a deceased person; you would think they would have caught on within a year. How would they have not known?”
“She thought the government was looking for her and she knew what she did was wrong, and she wanted to confront the situation,” Scharg said.
A Detroit woman has admitted to stealing nearly $100,000 from a dead veteran, but it’s how she got away with the crime for so long that’s raising a lot of questions. https://t.co/8ATgo0Pay4
— Local 4 WDIV Detroit (@Local4News) November 29, 2018
Allegedly, the veteran’s girlfriend was the initiator of the scheme, providing her with all of the bank information and for seven years they would split the deceased vet’s monthly benefits.
Although Watkins could have served as many as five years in prison for her role in the fraud, she was only given probation.
“I think they knew she wasn’t the mastermind,” Scharg said of Watkins.
He added, “You would think that the government would be more in tune as to what was transpiring with this account.”
VA said it is the job of the deceased family to inform the VA when a loved one dies. This vet didn’t have any close family, so it took much longer for VA to catch up.
In September, an Oceanside, Calif. man pleaded guilty to stealing more than $145,000 from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs by taking the checks of a military widow for 10 years after she died.
Michael Vanden Brink, 57, waived an indictment, was arraigned, and pleaded guilty to a charge of theft of public property in U.S. District Court.
In his plea agreement, Brink agreed to pay full restitution to the VA.
Brink faces a maximum punishment of 10 years in federal prison along with a fine of $390,060. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Dec. 10.
This is a death notification checklist provided by the VA:
When a family member or friend has died, it is important to notify various government agencies, banks, creditors and credit reporting agencies of the death. To reduce the risk of identity theft, these notifications should be made promptly after the death. To expedite notification, you should initially make the contact by telephone followed by written verification. For many of the government agencies and financial entities, you will need the decedent’s social security number, a copy of the death certificate, and, if you are a personal representative (executor) of the estate, your appointment form from the probate court. Make sure to retain copies of all notices that you send. Below is a checklist of possible agencies and businesses that should be notified of the death. Because each individual case is unique, the list may not be complete. Also, the funeral home may have notified some of the government agencies on your behalf. Please consult with the funeral director when you receive this list so you can check off those agencies which have been notified by the funeral director.