Court Approves Pension Access to Pay Criminal Fines

January 6, 2005 ( - A federal appellate court has rejected efforts by a man convicted of child pornography to keep the federal government from dipping into his pension to help pay his $200,000 criminal fine.

The US 2 nd Circuit Court of Appeals turned away Stefan Irving’s argument that permitting prosecutors access to his pension violated the anti-alienation statute of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) as part of an appeal of a federal court criminal case.

Senior Circuit Judge Richard Cardamone, in writing for the court, asserted that because federal lawmakers have allowed pensions to be used to pay federal income taxes, such assets can likewise be used to be criminal fines without violating ERISA.

Irving had pointed to a 1990 Supreme Court decision that held that there was no judicial exception to ERISA’s anti-alienation provision for criminal misconduct, and in which the court stated that only Congress can create such an exception.

Irving was convicted of traveling abroad for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts with minors in connection with trips to Mexico and Honduras.

The ruling in United States v. Irving is here .