As most of us know, nothing's ever really free. There are always strings attached -- and the more something's worth, the more strings there are. Just ask John Stitt, our latest Schmuck of the Week. He probably thought he'd hit the bureaucratic-snafu motherlode when his aunt's Social Security checks kept coming for decades after she died. But when the feds found out he'd snaked over $200K from government coffers over the span of a quarter century, they rewarded him with an extended trip to the Crossbars Hotel.
According to the U.S. Attorneys Office, Stitt's aunt Helen breathed her last on October 12, 1986; she was 78 when she died.
Her passing was sad, no doubt -- but Stitt received plenty of compensation for his sorrow. Seven months before she expired, he was added as an authorized signer on her bank account. So when her retirement benefits kept flowing, he was perfectly situated to take advantage -- and he did.
Over time, the U.S. Attorney's Office notes that he would periodically write checks on Helen's bank account to himself, then use the cash for whatever struck his fancy. And by the time the money train reached the end of the line in November 2011, a full 25 years later, he'd collected a lot of it: $236,187.70, to be precise.
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Once Stitt was caught, prosecutors didn't simply shrug off the loss, and neither did the court. U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson sentenced Stitt to serve a year and a day in federal prison, plus three years on supervised release after he gets out, for theft of government funds. He was also ordered to pay restitution of...$236,187.70.
What a coincidence.
It's doubtful Stitt will be able to make good on this entire debt, since he's presently 66 years old. But whether he succeeds or not, we feel confident someone will make damn sure that the second his heart stops, his own federal benefits will, too.
More from our Schmuck of the Week archive: "Three juvenile schmucks try to sell stolen stuff back to the woman they'd just robbed."