GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) - For nearly three years, Social Security checks were deposited into the bank account of 85-year-old Ruth Craver, even though the Wyoming woman died in November, 2009.
By the time Social Security Administration agents discovered the mistake, more than $30,000 had been deposited – and spent, by her surviving son.
On Wednesday, Stephen Mark Craver was sentenced in U.S. District Court for theft of government funds. Judge Robert J. Jonker placed him on probation for three years and ordered Craver to pay back the $30,475.49 he collected since his mother's death.
Defense attorney Ryan A. Maesen contends Craver notified the Social Security Administration or believed the funeral home had, but the money continued to be deposited.
"Due to the mental strain Mr. Craver was under from his mother's illness and death, he was unable to work and eventually used the money in his mother's bank account for his personal use,'' Maesen wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
"It was not used for vacations, the purchase of luxury items nor was it used to feed any kind of addictive behavior. It was for survival; pure and simple,'' Maesen wrote.
Craver intended to pay back the money, but was "unable to make a go as a real estate agent/investor,'' the sentencing memorandum states. "He was simply unable to make things right.''
Craver pleaded guilty in September and cooperated with federal investigators. He could have faced up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.