New York woman pleads guilty to stealing deceased mother’s pension benefits

ALBANY, N.Y. — A New York woman pleaded guilty to stealing more than $240,000 in pension benefits issued to her deceased mother, prosecutors said Tuesday.

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According to a news release from State Attorney Letitia James, Cynthia Rozzell, of Hempstead, pleaded guilty in Albany County Court to second-degree grand larceny. She also must make restitution for the $240,000 she collected between May 2014 and May 2020, the release stated.

Rozzell’s mother, Mary Garrett, retired from the Malverne Union Free School District in 1996, according to the release. She chose to receive the maximum payout in pension money instead of naming a beneficiary to receive the benefits after her death.

When Garrett died in 2014, the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System continued to deposit the pension money into her bank account, according to the McClatchy News.

James said that Rozzell diverted the pension money into her own bank account. The payments stopped after the pension group discovered that Garrett was dead.

“Pension theft is not a victimless crime. By stealing her deceased mother’s pension benefits, Ms. Rozzell dishonored countless hardworking New Yorkers who have dedicated their lives to one of our most noble professions: teaching and enriching our youth,” James said in a statement. “My office will continue to prosecute those who attempt to undermine our retirement systems and steal from the individuals whose lives and livelihoods depend on these hard-earned benefits.”

McClatchy News contacted Rozzell’s attorney for comment on Wednesday and was awaiting comment.

Rozzell is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 4, 2022, according to the release.