EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – A Belleville man admitted to stealing more than $17,000 in Government benefits from a deceased in-law in federal court Tuesday.

Scott C. Gunnarson, 47, pled guilty to one count of theft of government funds.

According to court documents, Gunnarson’s in-law received monthly payments via direct deposit from the Social Security Administration and the Office of Personnel Management’s Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund as the beneficiary of her deceased spouse. His in-law passed away in April 2018, but neither the SSA nor the OPM were notified.

Gunnarson had access to his in-law’s bank account since July 2019, when his wife passed away. According to bank records, more than $17,000 had been withdrawn from the bank account since that time.

“By failing to notify the Government of a loved one’s passing and continuing to collect their benefits, individuals commit felony theft,” said U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe. “Defrauding benefit agencies is a serious offense, and relatives tempted to swindle funds face going to federal prison.”

“This plea demonstrates that stealing Social Security benefits designated for another individual is a federal crime,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. “I want to thank OPM for working with us to investigate this crime and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecuting this case.”

“OPM OIG is committed to protecting federal funds from fraud,” said Conrad J. Quarles, Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Investigations, OPM OIG. “I applaud the hard work of our investigators and our partners in recovering these misspent funds.”

Gunnarson is expected to be sentenced on May 2.