Phoenixville man accused of stealing benefits

PHOENIXVILLE — A Phoenixville man stands accused of taking more than $188,000 of government-funded retirement payments that should have stopped with the death of his father-in-law.

Throughout a span of 6˝ years, Lawrence Nicoletti, 60, allegedly took $188,564.70 in payments that went to his father-in-law’s bank account. The man died Dec. 22, 2005, according to court documents.

Nicoletti’s father-in-law, identified only as “H.W.” in the court papers, retired from the United State Postal Service and received benefits from both the Social Security Administration Retirement and Survivor’s Insurance and the Office of Personnel Management Civil Service Retirement System.

According to court documents, the Social Security Administration and the Office of Personnel Management did not receive “timely” notification of the death of Nicoletti’s father-in-law.


Investigators allege Nicoletti “had access to his deceased father-in-law’s bank account” and “improperly received and converted to his own use” funds sent into that account.

Nicoletti allegedly took $31,765 in Retirement and Survivor’s Insurance benefits and $156,799.70 in Civil Service Retirement System payments until the agencies found out about “H.W.’s” death last summer.

“When the annuitant (Nicoletti’s father-in-law) died, a surviving family member was not entitled to receive the annuity unless he or she applied to, and was approved by, the Office of Personnel Management,” according to the court documents.

A U.S. Department of Justice employee said Nicoletti was charged by “information,” which is essentially an accusation in which the defendant waives the convening a grand jury.

Because of the charges, the Department of Justice will seek the forfeiture of any property or items “obtained directly or indirectly” through the alleged crime.

Additionally, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, Nicoletti could potentially face 10 years in prison, “three years of supervised release,” a $250,000 fine, and restitution of the money he allegedly stole, along with a “$100 special assessment.”

The charges are the result of an investigation by the Social Security Administration and Office of Personnel Management.

Amanda R. Feinitz, special assistant United States attorney, will prosecute the case.

-Story from The Mercury in Pottstown,

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.