New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today the felony conviction of Pearlann MacVittie of West Seneca, New York, of the crime of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony. MacVittie pleaded guilty this morning before the Hon. Kenneth F. Case in Erie County Court. She admitted that she had stolen benefits from the city of Buffalo Firemen's Pension Fund that were intended for her late mother, who died in 1983.
"From the day her mother died, Pearlann MacVittie tarnished her memory by stealing $291,070 in pension checks in her mother's name from the city of Buffalo's Firemen's Pension Fund," said State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. "I thank my auditors and investigators for uncovering this brazen scam against the city and its taxpayers."
"Concealing the death of one's parent to steal from their pension shortchanges those who rely on these benefits — in this case, brave firefighters and their families," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "Today's conviction is evidence of our steadfast commitment to rooting out and prosecuting pension fraud."
According to the investigators, Lola Martin, the mother of defendant Pearlann MacVittie, was the widow of Buffalo fireman William J. Martin. After her husband's death, Lola Martin was eligible for his Firemen's Pension Fund benefit from the city of Buffalo during her lifetime. The Buffalo Firemen's Pension Fund is administered by the city of Buffalo and is not part of the New York State and Local Retirement System.
Lola Martin died on September 10, 1983. MacVittie failed to notify the Buffalo Firemen's Pension Fund of her mother's death, and instead continued to collect benefits to which she was not entitled. At the time of Lola Martin's death in 1983, she was receiving a pension benefit of approximately $325 per month from the Buffalo Firemen's Pension Fund. Over the next 33 years, the monthly benefits increased, and by 2016 MacVittie was illegally collecting $935 per month. The total amount stolen by MacVittie from October 1983 through May 2016 was $291,070.
MacVittie's decades-long fraud was uncovered by an audit and investigation conducted by the New York State Comptroller's Office. When confronted with the evidence of her theft, MacVittie admitted that she knew that she was not entitled to the pension benefits after her mother died, and that she had falsely signed her mother's name on yearly Acknowledgments of Pension Benefit forms, making the handwriting look shaky so that it appeared someone older had signed the form.
As part of her plea today to Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, MacVittie signed a confession of judgment for the entire amount stolen. MacVittie, 73, is scheduled to be sentenced to five years' probation on June 22 at 9:30 a.m.
Today's convictions are the result of an investigation conducted by the State Comptroller's Office and the Attorney General's Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. This 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.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Diane LaVallee of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Acting Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton.
The Attorney General's investigation was conducted by Senior Investigator Sandra Migaj, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Richard Doyle and Deputy Bureau Chief Antoine Karam. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella.
The Comptroller's investigation was conducted by the Comptroller's Division of Investigations working with the Division of Local Government and School Accountability.
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.