PA Pension Fund Continues Dead Worker's Benefits for 30 Years

March 19, 2004 ( - The city of Pittsburgh continued $500 monthly checks to a former refuse worker for more than three decades after his July 1970 death.

The employee, whose son received and cashed $150,000 in checks over the years, would have turned 107 years old in 2003, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report.

Officials learned about the long-running miscue this week at a city pension board meeting when the Municipal Pension Fund payments were discussed. Auditors uncovered the situation last year and halted the payments, the newspaper said.

Pittsburgh pension fund attorney Craig Frischman said a police investigation is ongoing, but apparently the dead man’s son did not know the benefits should have expired. The man “was under the mistaken impression that benefits continue, not withstanding his father’s death,” Frischman said. Officials wouldn’t identify the dead worker or his son, the report said.

The error was found in the 2001-02 audit of the city fund by the state auditor general’s office that, for the first time, checked Social Security numbers of pension recipients against those on death certificates at the state’s Department of Health, office spokesperson Karen Walsh said. “We looked for red flags and did find someone deceased” on the city’s pensioner list, Walsh said. The audit is in its final review stages and will be released in a few weeks, she said.

Details of the investigation were sketchy yesterday. Frischman told the city pension board that Allegheny County police were issuing a warrant for the son’s arrest.

To help in the investigation, the board looked up old pension records kept in storage, the late worker’s pension application and other data, he said. While the board will likely try to recoup some of the $150,000 mistakenly issued to the dead man by targeting banks where the checks were illicitly cashed, Frischman said, there could be limitations on how much restitution the city is due.