by: Natasha Chen Updated:
A 66-year-old Renton man has been charged with felony theft of public funds, after investigators said he pocketed $220,000 in Social Security funds over 17 years that were issued to his deceased father.
When KIRO 7 approached Patrick Derrick at his Renton home, he said, “Hi. No, we're not interested; no thank you; no comment.”
Derrick’s father died in November of 1996. But investigators said he continued to receive his father’s Social Security funds through August of 2013.
Derrick’s wife of 12 years, Delores, told KIRO 7 she had no idea the theft was going on.
“I really don't understand what happened because I wasn't married to him then,” she said.
But KIRO 7 told her investigators believe this was going on since before they were married.
“I’ve talked to him briefly about it,” she said. But when pressed for an answer: “Nothing that I can really be concrete on.”
She said she was a bit worried about whether he actually took the money, and why.
KIRO 7 found out from the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General that about a dozen cases like this happen every year in the Northwest.
Special Agent in Charge Joe Velling said deaths are typically reported by family members. When there is an official death record, states can also supply the data.
But sometimes notification of a death can fall through the cracks, and the Social Security Administration continues to issue checks.
So through the Centenarian Project, Velling said the department calls people to congratulate them on their 100th birthday.
If no one responds to a call or a follow-up letter, “We will send out federal agents to knock on that door, to find out where the elderly beneficiary is living and whether they're still alive.”
If Derrick’s father were alive today, he would be 102 years old.
Velling said people typically benefiting from Social Security funds are “retired, orphans, widows and the people with disabilities. And all the funds that are going out the door that are going into somebody else's pockets that shouldn't be getting those, can be money that could have been going to beneficiaries.”
If convicted, Derrick could serve several years in prison and have money taken from his own Social Security checks.