New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today the unsealing of a five-count indictment charging Tammy Banack, a resident of Kirkville, New York, with one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, one count of Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree, a class D felony, two counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, and one count of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony.
Banack is alleged to have stolen over $67,000 in pension benefits issued by the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System to her deceased mother, Rosemary Banack, between January 2010 and July 2015. Banack is also charged with fraudulently obtaining over $19,000 in welfare benefits administered by the Onondaga County Department of Social Services by concealing the pension income on her application and re-certifications of eligibility for Medicaid assistance.
"When her mother died, Tammy Banack concealed the death from the New York State & Local Retirement System to steal $67,000," said State Comptroller DiNapoli. "I thank Attorney General Schneiderman for partnering with us to find and prosecute those who steal public retirement funds.”
"To exploit the death of a loved one by stealing their pension benefits is reprehensible," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "Today’s arrest sends the message that we will keep working to root out and prosecute pension and welfare fraud to the fullest extent."
According to documents filed with the court today, Banack’s father, Anthony Banack, was a New York State pensioner who retired in 1991. At the time of his retirement, Anthony Banack selected to receive his pension as a Pop Up Joint Allowance Half, which provided him with a reduced pension benefit but allowed him to pass on pension payments to his wife, Rosemary Banack, at the time of his death. Anthony Banack died in 2004, and Rosemary Banack ultimately began to receive her share of monthly pension benefits via direct deposit to a joint bank account she held with Tammy Banack.
Rosemary Banack died on December 31, 2009. According to prosecutors, Tammy Banack is listed as the informant on her death certificate. However, prosecutors allege that Tammy Banack concealed Rosemary Banack’s death from Citizens Bank and the Retirement System, in order to maintain the joint bank account to which the pension benefits were issued. Tammy Banack then systematically accessed the account and withdrew the funds or spent them on herself as they were issued. All told, prosecutors allege Tammy Banack stole over $67,000 in pension benefits until the Retirement System discovered her mother’s death in mid-2015.
The prosecution also alleges that in November 2012, Tammy Banack applied for and wrongfully obtained Medicaid assistance with the Onondaga County Department of Social Services. According to documents filed with the Court, Banack allegedly falsely underreported her monthly income to the Onondaga County Department of Social Services by concealing the approximately $1,000 per month in pension benefits she was taking both on her original application and in two subsequent re-certifications of eligibility for benefits. As a result, prosecutors allege that Tammy Banack wrongfully obtained over $12,000 in Medicaid payments and nearly $7,000 in managed care payments she was not actually entitled to from November 2012 through July 2015.
Banack was arraigned on the indictment today before Honorable Stephen J. Dougherty in Onondaga County Court, and entered a plea of not guilty. Bail was set at $20,000 bond or cash. If convicted, Banack faces up to 5 to 15 years in state prison.
The charges are accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case is the latest joint investigation under the Operation Integrity partnership of the Attorney General and Comptroller, which to date has resulted in dozens of convictions and more than $11 million in restitution.
Attorney General Schneiderman and Comptroller DiNapoli thanked the Onondaga County Department of Social Services for its assistance.
The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Benjamin S. Clark of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Acting Bureau Chief Stephanie J. Swenton. The Attorney General’s investigation was conducted by Investigator Joel Cordone under the supervision of Deputy Chief Antoine Karam. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella.
Comptroller DiNapoli’s investigation was handled by the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations working with the New York State and Local Retirement System.
Since taking office in 2007, DiNapoli has committed to fighting public corruption and encourages the public to help fight fraud and abuse. New Yorkers can report allegations of fraud involving taxpayer money by calling the toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-888-672-4555, by filing a complaint online at [email protected], or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, 14th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.