COLUMBUS – A federal judge sentenced Cindy Hardway – a Newark, Ohio resident – to six months in prison on July 8, 2022, after she pleaded guilty to one count of theft of public money and one count of theft or embezzlement from an employee benefit plan. Hardway’s guilty plea comes after she collected $254,116 from her deceased father’s pension fund and Social Security following his death in 2005.
The court’s action follows the discovery of the theft, which continued through May 2020, by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration and the Social Security Administration’s inspector general, and their subsequent investigation.
In addition to incarceration and restitution, Judge James L. Graham of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division in Columbus, ordered Hardway to serve three years of supervised release following her prison term and pay a $200 special assessment. Hardway must report to prison by Sept. 6.
In her plea agreement, Hardway admitted she did not report the Jan. 12, 2005 death of her father, Joseph Fries, to the Central States, Southeast & Southwest Areas Pension Plan or to the Social Security Administration. In total, she collected $20,165 in pension benefits and $233,951 in Social Security benefits illegally. Using her father’s debit card, Hardway accessed the funds and used them for her personal benefit.
“Fraudulent transactions like these have a severe impact on the integrity of pension plans and are a clear violation of federal law,” said Employee Benefits Security Administration Regional Director Joe Rivers in Cincinnati. “We will investigate any illegal use of pension or retirement benefits and protect individual retirement earnings for their rightful recipients.”
Employers and workers can reach EBSA toll-free at 866-444-3272 for help with problems related to private sector retirement and health plans. Learn more about EBSA.