A 79-year-old Buffalo widow, though legitimately getting Social Security death benefits after the deaths of her two husbands, pleaded guilty Thursday to using false names and identification documents to defraud the system out of an additional $101,150.95 for over a decade.
Bernice Robinson pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie G. Foschio to the theft of public money, a charge for which she could get a prison term of up to ten years and a fine of up to $250,000 when her sentencing is scheduled later this year. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen A. Lynch said Robinson’s fraud dated from October 1998 through April 2011 when Social Security Administration agents finally established her criminal activity.
Robinson legitimately began collecting Social Security widow benefits after the death of her first husband in 1992 and in March 2001 she began collecting additional widow benefits after the death of her second husband. But in 1998 using a false name and birth certificate she had applied for and began receiving additional supplemental benefits. She did the same thing in August 2010, using a false name and social security number, to get even more supplemental benefits, the prosecutor said.