Woman imprisoned for stealing deceased father’s social security benefits

Theft of Social Security benefits is considered a federal crime, and the Social Security Administration has a system in place to detect fraud and recover funds paid in error. Individuals who continue to receive benefits on behalf of a deceased person without notifying the agency could face criminal charges and be required to repay the misused funds. Such actions undermine the Social Security program’s integrity and can result in significant legal and financial consequences for the perpetrators.

Terri Lynn Hankerson, a resident of Lauderdale Lakes, has been sentenced to five months in prison, followed by five months of home confinement for stealing nearly $50,000 in Social Security benefits, intended for her deceased father.

Hankerson was made a joint owner of her father’s retirement account, where the benefits were deposited, around a year and a half before he passed away in June 2016. After her father’s death, Hankerson continued to receive the benefits without informing the Social Security Administration or the bank of his death. She spent almost $50,000 of the benefits on various activities, including concerts, a strip club, Miami Heat games, hotels, bars, and Costco.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, the Social Security Administration continued to deposit the benefits, along with the cost of living adjustments, into the account until it suspended the benefits in February 2020. Hankerson was found guilty of stealing the Social Security benefits by a federal jury following a four-day trial. As part of her sentence, she must also pay restitution.

Markenzy Lapointe, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Rodregas W. Owens, Special Agent in Charge of the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General (SSA OIG), Atlanta Field Division, announced the sentence. SSA OIG investigated the case, while Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Thompson and former Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jodi Raft prosecuted the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Annika Miranda is managing asset forfeiture.

Jordan Collins

Jordan is an experienced editor with years in the journalism and reporting industry. He loves talking with the community about the problems local residents face and state politics. You can find him in the gym almost every day or see him jogging.

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