Atlanta Pension Officials Broaden Payout Probe

July 9, 2003 ( - Atlanta officials have expanded a probe into possible improper pension payments being made to hundreds of deceased retirees.

Board members for the fire and police pension funds received a report detailing discrepancies in 218 out of 1,300 examined accounts that that received $676,000 in questionable benefits over four years.   The report showed 19 pensioners who were sent at least 10 checks after they died, 12 of the 218 accounts received more than $10,000 each and one account received 21 checks after the retiree’s death, a total of more than $51,000, according to a report.

Even though city officials suspect some of the money was paid in error or stolen or that some might have been paid properly to spouses or other beneficiaries, it is no coincidence that the probe began after Atlanta police charged two individuals with theft for stealing $68,000 in pension assets.

One suspect, Lasheika Smith, a former city pension office worker, was accused of diverting pension payments of dead city workers into a special account and then accessing that money through an electronic teller machine card.   In addition to Smith, charges were also filed against Howard Hill, an employee of the US Postal Service. City officials said they are unsure how much money was diverted.

Atlanta’s three pension boards – police, fire and general employees – oversee about $1 billion that covers the retirement of more than 8,000 former employees. About $6 million gets paid out each month for benefits.

Finance officials said the city would seek repayment from anyone who has been overpaid, even if overpayments were made in error.