Ohio woman pretending to be dead mother must repay $461K in stolen VA benefits

CINCINNATI — An Ohio woman who impersonated her dead mother for nearly 50 years so she could receive government benefits was ordered to repay more than $461,000, federal prosecutors said.

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According to a news release on Thursday from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio, Irene Ferrin, 76, of Cincinnati, was sentenced to five years of probation, including a year of home detention. Ferrin was also ordered to repay $461,780, the release stated.

Ferrin pleaded guilty on Aug. 11, 2022, to one count of theft of public money, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

According to court documents, Ferrin’s mother was receiving widow’s and dependency benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs when she died in January 1973, WXIX-TV reported.

Online newspaper records show that Gladys Jane Queen -- Ferrin’s mother -- died on Jan. 11, 1973, in Marion, Ohio, according to The Marion Star. She was 49 and had been receiving benefits since her husband, Woodrow A. Queen, died in 1969.

Ferrin never reported her mother’s death, according to WCPO-TV. Instead, prosecutors said Ferrin forged her mother’s signature on the checks, cashing them illegally for decades.

Ferrin also filed fraudulent paperwork with the VA from 1982 through 2017 to guarantee that checks would continue to be mailed to her, prosecutors said in the news release.

According to U.S. Attorney Timothy Landry, Ferrin also lied to a U.S. Bankruptcy Court to help hide her scheme, WXIX reported.

In arguing for a prison sentence for Ferrin, Landry said that her age “is more like an aggravating factor than a mitigating factor” according to the television station.

“For nearly 50 years the defendant stole from the military veterans of this country and now, at this time of her life, is facing a criminal sentence,” Kenneth L. Parker, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, said in a statement. “That’s not a legacy you want to leave for your loved ones.”