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Essex County Woman Accused of Embezzling $1 Million in Benefits Over 25 Years Meant for Dead Aunt

South Orange

By: Richard L. Smith 

Ms. Janis Miller, a 77-year-old woman from South Orange, was charged with embezzling over $1 million in government benefits intended for her late aunt. U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced the arrest today.AdFederal officials said Miller faces a wire fraud charge following her alleged 25-year scheme, which involved the illicit collection of retirement and survivor benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

The benefits were erroneously paid into her deceased aunt's bank account, from which Miller reportedly siphoned funds through various means, including debit card transactions, cash withdrawals, and forged checks.

The scheme was uncovered when Miller, in an attempt to continue receiving the benefits in 2022, impersonated her deceased aunt during a phone call with an SSA employee.

Federal officials said the discovery led to the cessation of the fraudulent payments in 2023, a quarter-century after the deceit began.AdMiller made her first court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jessica S. Allen in Newark federal court.

She was released on a $100,000 unsecured bond. If convicted of wire fraud, she could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine up to the greater of $250,000 or twice the pecuniary gain or loss from the offense.

"This case highlights the vulnerabilities in federal benefit programs and the lengths individuals may go to exploit them."

The SSA and OPM are currently reviewing their procedures to prevent such incidents in the future.