Man Gets 6 Months In Prison After Cashing Dead Mom's Social Security Checks...For 37 Years

A Detroit man has been sentenced to six months in prison (plus three years on probation) for cashing 37 years' worth of his dead mother's social security checks - accruing more than $280,000 in benefits to which he wasn't entitled.

Though his neighbor, Reginald Carpenter, said he tried to do the right thing by notifying the authorities ("but the checks just kept coming"), 76-year-old Walter Terrell had cashed his mother's checks, despite the fact that she had been dead since 1981.

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US Attorney Matthew Schneider

The scheme was uncovered after Medicare tried to contact his mother to ask why her benefits hadn't been used. Though Terrell tried to keep them at bay by telling them that his mother was away or on vacation when they called or tried to check on her, he was eventually found out, according to Fox 10.

Despite Terrell's neighbors' insistence that he tried to do the right thing, US Attorney Matthew Schneider didn't see it that way.

"Every single time you write the false name on the check, you sign somebody's name that is not yours, that is a crime," said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider. "Eventually this was direct deposited into his account. So the defendent had to lie to get the direct deposit into his account."

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"It was 37 years of fraud. Thirty-seven years of stealing the government's money," said Schneider.

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"And if you're not entitled to those benefits, what you should expect is prison time."

Carpenter claims he spent the money on medical expenses, and that he recently had back surgery (though, presumably, he would also be covered by Medicare).

While it's unclear what that money was getting spent on, Carpenter claims it was going toward medical expenses, like the back surgery that Terrell had just underwent.

All in all, Carpenter was only sentenced to six months in prison for stealing nearly $300,000 from the federal government. We're no lawyers, but we'd venture a guess that he'll maybe serve half of that with good behavior. Which begs the question: Would you spend a month in jail for $100,000 (minus a few thousand for lawyers' fees?)

Watch the local Fox affiliate's report on the case below: