New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the conviction and sentence of Richard L. Cook, III, 58, a resident of Atlanta, GA, for the crime of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, for stealing over $204,000 in state pension benefits issued to his deceased mother.
As part of his guilty plea in January 2016, Cook admitted to stealing $204,315.76 in pension benefits issued to his deceased mother, Yvonne Powell, by the New York State Comptroller’s Office on behalf of the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System. Powell was a New York State pensioner, retired from the Department of Correction, who passed away in March 2009.
“Hiding the death of a loved one to steal pension benefits is not only shameful, it is crime," State Comptroller DiNapoli said. "We rigorously oversee the state's retirement system to ensure that no one is cheating it. When we identify fraud, we actively work with law enforcement to hold perpetrators like Mr. Cook accountable regardless of where the criminal lives. I want to thank Attorney General Schneiderman's office and law enforcement in Georgia for partnering with us to protect the integrity of our public pension system."
“Those who steal from our state’s pension system do a disservice to all hardworking New York taxpayers, but to use a deceased parent’s pension to line one’s own pockets is truly reprehensible,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “This conviction sends the message, loud and clear, that pension fraud will not be tolerated. Through our Operation Integrity partnership, Comptroller DiNapoli and I will keep fighting to ensure taxpayer dollars are protected.”
A joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau and the Office of the New York State Comptroller revealed that Cook, who served as executor to his mother’s estate, failed to notify the Retirement System of her death. Instead, Cook routinely accessed the pension funds deposited into a joint account he had held with his mother and liquidated approximately $3,500 per month in pension benefits between March 2009 through December 2013. All told, Cook stole over $200,000.00 in pension benefits over that time period. He was indicted for the theft by an Albany County grand jury in April of 2015, and has been incarcerated since June of 2015.
Today, before Albany County Court Judge Peter A. Lynch, Cook was sentenced to parole with a deferred sentence of three to six years in state prison. Cook also agreed to a judgment in favor of the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System in the amount of $204,315.76.
The case is the latest joint investigation under the Operation Integrity partnership between the Attorney General and Comptroller, which has resulted in dozens of convictions and more than $11 million in restitution.
Attorney General Schneiderman and Comptroller DiNapoli thank the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia for their assistance in apprehending Cook.
The joint investigation was conducted with the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations.
The Attorney General’s investigation was conducted by Investigator Dennis Churns and Deputy Chief Antoine Karam. Forensic accounting was performed by Associate Forensic Auditor Meaghan Scovello. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella. The Forensic Audit section is led by Chief Auditor Edward J. Keegan.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Benjamin S. Clark of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Gary T. Fishman and Deputy Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton. The Division of Criminal Justice is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.