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West Seneca woman cashed dead mother's pension checks for 33 years

Pearlann MacVittie's mother died 33 years ago but her monthly pension checks never stopped arriving.

And MacVittie never stopped cashing them.

The 73-year-old West Seneca woman did not inform the pension fund of her mother's death and over the next three decades stole an estimated $291,070 in benefits intended for her late mother.

She pleaded guilty to grand larceny in Erie County Court Thursday and faces five years of probation when she is sentenced in June.

When MacVittie was confronted with evidence of her crime, investigators said she admitted falsely signing her mother’s name on annual pension benefit forms and went out of her way to make  the handwriting look shaky as if it came from an older person.

“From the day her mother died, Pearlann MacVittie tarnished her memory," State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said in a statement. “I thank my auditors and investigators for uncovering this brazen scam against the city and its taxpayers.”

An audit uncovered MacVittie's thefts from the City of Buffalo Firemen’s Pension Fund. The thefts  began after her mother, Lola Martin, the widow of Buffalo firefighter William J. Martin, died in 1983.

Lola Martin was eligible for her late husband's pension benefits and was receiving about $325 a month at the time of her death. MacVittie failed to notify the pension fund of her mother's death and, by the time she was caught last year, the monthly benefit had increased to $935.

MacVittie's conviction is the result of an investigation by the State Comptroller’s Division of Investigations and Division of Local Government and School Accountability, and the Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Diane LaVallee of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau and the Attorney General's investigation was conducted by Senior Investigator Sandra Migaj.

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