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Published March 03, 2012, 07:13 PM

Grand Forks Man Accepted $1.2M in Dead Dad's Pension Checks

FARGO — A Grand Forks man lied about his father’s death for 26 years and cashed in on more than $1.2 million worth of pension checks the federal government continued to send his deceased father.

By: Kristin Daum, Forum Communications

FARGO — A Grand Forks man lied about his father’s death for 26 years and cashed in on more than $1.2 million worth of pension checks the federal government continued to send his deceased father.

Silas Lee McHenry Jr. faces up to 10 years in prison after duping the government and stealing the pension checks.

McHenry is due to be sentenced Monday in Fargo’s U.S. District Court. He pleaded guilty in October to a charge of theft of government property.

According to the plea agreement with federal prosecutors:

Silas McHenry Sr. worked for the federal government and earned a pension, which he was paid upon his retirement.

McHenry eventually became disabled and appointed his son to be in charge of his affairs.

When McHenry died in March 1983, his son failed to notify the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that his father had died.

Between April 1983 and November 2009, the OPM continued to send pension checks to the elder McHenry’s bank account, believing the retiree was still alive.

Because he had control over the bank account, the younger McHenry would withdraw all or some of the funds and “expended them for personal and family expenses.”

On at least four separate occasions over more than two decades, officials with OPM requested verification of the elder McHenry’s status, and each time, the son lied to the government and masked his father’s death.

In 1995, 1997, 2005 and 2009, the son responded to forms from OPM on behalf of his father, stating he had power of attorney because his dad suffered advanced Alzheimer’s disease.

During those years, McHenry moved from Washington state to Bowbells, N.D., and eventually to Grand Forks. With each move, McHenry also had his father’s address changed.

According to the plea agreement, McHenry will likely have to pay back the $1.2 million he stole through his father’s pension checks.

The maximum penalty for McHenry crimes is 10 years in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

A specific sentencing guideline has not yet been calculated, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Schneider plans to recommend a sentence of four years and three months in prison.

Schneider is seeking a slight sentence enhancement because he says McHenry’s false statements to OPM constitute obstruction of justice.

For that reason, McHenry also doesn’t deserve credit for accepting responsibility with his guilty plea, Schneider said in court documents.

Meanwhile, McHenry’s attorney Joel Larson reserves the right to argue that factor at sentencing, the plea agreement states.

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