New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced the sentencing of Leslie Schwinzer, of Knoxville, Tennessee, for stealing pension checks that had been issued to her deceased mother. Schwinzer, 46, was sentenced on July 14, 2022 to pay over $56,000 in restitution and serve eight months home detention and two years’ probation before the Honorable Thomas A. Varlan in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Knoxville.
“Leslie Schwinzer lied about her mother’s death in order to collect her pension checks and steal from New York state's retirement system,” DiNapoli said. “Thanks to my partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, we uncovered this fraud, and Ms. Schwinzer has now been held accountable for her crimes.”
On March 10, 2022, Schwinzer pleaded guilty to a charge of one count of wire fraud. She admitted that she failed to notify the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) that her mother had passed away on July 3, 2018. All related payments should have stopped after her mother’s death. Instead, Schwinzer received $92,222.55 in pension checks and Social Security payments into a joint account she held with her mother that she was not authorized to receive.
Schwinzer did not stop withdrawing the money from the account until a bank representative contacted her on Dec. 19, 2019 to tell her that the bank had been informed of her mother’s passing. Schwinzer lied in response, stating: “No, she’s fine.”
SSA recovered the funds it had paid into the account after Schwinzer’s mother’s death.
This prosecution is the result of a joint investigation by the New York State Comptroller’s Office, the Social Security Administration Inspector General’s Office and the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee.
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 https://www.osc.state.ny.us/investigations, or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, 8th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.