A Taco Bell franchise owner in Washington, who is worth about $4 million, admits he collected his deceased mother’s social security payments for the last 23 years.
Raymond O’Dell, 70, did not notify the Social Security Administration that his mother had died. He reportedly stole nearly $200,000 in benefits.
O’Dell was caught when a Social Security worker asked to speak with his mother, who died in November 1989.
He later pleaded guilty to federal charges of Social Security fraud.
On Monday, O’Dell was sentenced to six months in federal prison and six months of home detention. He was ordered to pay both $188,436 in restitution and a $20,000 fine.
Later this month he will also face charges of defrauding the Ohio state pension system. He allegedly continued to draw from his mother’s pension after her death and stole $100,000 from the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System.
“Social Security fraud cases often involve genuinely impoverished persons who steal to improve an otherwise desperate existence,” Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Wilkinson said in court papers. “While those circumstances do not excuse theft from social programs, they mitigate the crime. Here, however, (O’Dell) has had a lucrative business career as the owner of fast food restaurants and real estate.”
O’Dell’s attorney, Laurence Finegold, said his client was nearly broke when he began stealing.
“While none of this is offered to excuse or attempt to justify Mr. O’Dell’s crime, it simply describes a desperate, but good man, who saw an opportunity to provide for his family’s health in 1989, when he was at his lowest point, and took it,” Finegold said in a memo to the court. “Like making a deal with the devil, however, once that decision was made there was no way out for Mr. O’Dell.”