New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today the conviction of Tammy Banack, a resident of Kirkville, New York, of the crime of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony. Banack pleaded guilty today before Hon. Stephen J. Dougherty in Onondaga County Court in satisfaction of a five-count indictment handed up against her earlier this month charging her with stealing pension benefits issued to her deceased mother and fraudulently obtaining $19,000 in welfare benefits from the Onondaga County Department of Social Services.
As part of her plea today, Banack admitted stealing over $67,000 in pension benefits issued by the New York State and Local Retirement System to her deceased mother, Rosemary Banack, between January 2010 and July 2015. Banack agreed to execute a confession of judgment in favor of the Retirement System for the pension money she stole, and also agreed to execute confessions of judgment in favor of the Onondaga County Department of Services and Fidelis Care, Inc., for welfare benefits she wrongfully obtained by concealing the stolen pension money.
"Ms. Banack tried to scam the pension fund by stealing more than $67,000 in benefits. She is now a convicted criminal," said State Comptroller DiNapoli. "I will continue to protect the members and the assets of the New York State and Local Retirement System and work with Attorney General Schneiderman to catch anyone who attempts to steal benefits to which they are not entitled."
"To exploit the death of a loved one for personal gain at the expense of hardworking taxpayers is reprehensible," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "Today's conviction sends the message that those who commit pension fraud will be caught and brought to justice."
According to documents previously filed with the court, Banack's father, Anthony Banack, was a New York State pensioner who retired in 1991. At the time of his retirement, Anthony Banack selected to received his pension as a Pop Up Joint Allowance Half, which provided him with a reduced pension benefit but allowed him to pass on pension payments to his wife, Rosemary Banack, at the time of his death. Anthony Banack died in 2004, and Rosemary Banack ultimately began to receive her share of monthly pension benefits via direct deposit to a joint bank account she held at Citizens Bank with Tammy Banack.
Rosemary Banack died on December 31, 2009. Tammy Banack concealed Rosemary Banack's death from Citizens Bank and the Retirement System, in order to maintain the joint bank account to which the pension benefits were issued. Tammy Banack then systematically accessed the account and withdrew the funds or spent them on herself as they were issued. All told, Banack stole over $67,000 in pension benefits until the Retirement System discovered her mother's death in mid-2015.
Further, in November 2012, Banack applied for and wrongfully obtained Medicaid assistance with the Onondaga County Department of Social Services. Banack falsely underreported her monthly income to the Onondaga County Department of Social Services by concealing the approximately $1,000 per month in pension benefits she was taking both on her original application and in two subsequent re-certifications of eligibility for benefits. As a result, Banack wrongfully obtained over $12,000 in Medicaid payments and nearly $7,000 in managed care payments she was not actually entitled to from November 2012 through July 2015.
Banack will be sentenced on June 15, 2017 to time served and five years' probation, and will be ordered to repay the ill-gotten gains as imposed by the confessions of judgment.
The case is the latest joint investigation under the Operation Integrity partnership of the Attorney General and Comptroller, which to date has resulted in dozens of convictions and more than $11 million in restitution.
Attorney General Schneiderman and Comptroller DiNapoli thanked the Onondaga County Department of Social Services for its assistance.
The case is being handled 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 Acting Bureau Chief Stephanie J. Swenton.
The Attorney General's investigation was conducted by Investigator Joel Cordone under the supervision of Deputy Chief Antoine Karam. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella.
Comptroller DiNapoli's investigation was handled by the Comptroller's Division of Investigations working with the New York State and Local Retirement System.
Since taking office in 2007, DiNapoli has committed to fighting public corruption and encourages the public to help fight fraud and abuse. New Yorkers can report allegations of fraud involving taxpayer money by calling the toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-888-672-4555, by filing a complaint online at [email protected], or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, 14th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.