Weekly Feature

2017-04-20 / Local News

Investigation leads to grand larceny conviction

Woman pleads guilty to stealing $290,000 in deceased mother’s benefits

Pearlann MacVittie of West Seneca has been convicted of grand larceny, a felony, following a guilty plea to the charge of stealing benefits from the City of Buffalo Firemen’s Pension Fund by pretending to be her late mother, who died in 1983.

MacVittie pleaded guilty before Judge Kenneth Case in Erie County Court, according to a press release from state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

Schneiderman said the conviction is evidence of his steadfast commitment to rooting out and prosecuting pension fraud.

“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,” Schneiderman said.

According to the investigators, Lola Martin, the mother of MacVittie, was the widow of Buffalo fireman William J. Martin. After her husband’s death, Martin was eligible for his Firemen’s Pension Fund benefit from the City of Buffalo during her lifetime. The Buffalo Fireman’s Pension Fund is administered by the City of Buffalo and is not part of the New York State and local retirement system.

“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 Fireman’s Pension Fund,” DiNapoli said.

Martin died Sept. 10, 1983. According to the release, MacVittie failed to notify the Buffalo Fireman’s Pension Fund of her mother’s death and instead continued to collect benefits to which she was not entitled by forging her mother’s name on checks and official documents. At the time of Martin’s death in 1983, she was receiving a pension benefit of approximately $325 per month from the Buffalo Fireman’s Pension Fund.

During 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, according to investigators.

MacVittie’s decades-long fraud was uncovered by an audit and investigation conducted by the New York State Comptroller’s Office, the release said.

When confronted with the evidence of her theft, MacVittie reportedly 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 to grand larceny, MacVittie signed a confession of judgment for the entire amount stolen, the release said. MacVittie, 73, is scheduled to be sentenced at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, June 22.

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