A 48-year theft

Forty-eight years is a long time to pull off a scam, but one woman managed to keep it going for that long. The crime: forging her mother’s signature on the back of checks for widows’ benefits ... for 48 years.

During all those years she continued to send in fraudulent paperwork while impersonating her mother -- who died in 1973 -- and continued to collect the money. Her excuse, when finally caught, was that her abusive husband told her to keep cashing the checks. She divorced him and was then out from under his control, yet she continued to cash the checks.

Yes, when her mother died she had to take in and raise her younger siblings, so it’s possibly understandable that she assumed she could take the money that had been meant for her mother. But eventually those children grew up and were no longer minors living at home.

In the middle of the decades-long theft, she filed for bankruptcy and claimed she had no income, even though she was receiving the Department of Veterans Affairs benefits checks all along.

She’ll need to repay the $416,000 that she stole (not likely to happen), but there’s no jail sentence, only a year of home confinement, because the perp in this case is now 76 years old.

Why, inquiring minds want to know, does the VA not demand proof of life or some type of verification about where the money is going when benefits are paid year after year, decade after decade?

Surely someone could have done the math. If the mother was X years old when she started collecting the widow benefits, what were the odds she was still living 20 years, 30 years or 40 years later? Couldn’t someone have asked for verification? Or gone to the door? Just receiving handwritten forms over the years doesn’t seem like much of an effort to safeguard the funds that are sent out.

That $416,000 (that they’ll likely never see again) is a lot of money.

(c) 2023 King Features Synd., Inc.