HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ –Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a woman was indicted for allegedly stealing more than $268,000 by fraudulently collecting survivor benefits from her deceased husband’s pension for nearly 10 years after she remarried and allegedly knew she was disqualified for such benefits.
Sandra VonScheven, 44, of Hamilton, Mercer County, N.J., was indicted yesterday by a state grand jury on a charge of second-degree theft by unlawful taking. The indictment is the result of an investigation by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and the Pension and Fraud Abuse Unit of the New Jersey Department of the Treasury’s Division of Pension and Benefits.
In November 2001, VonScheven began collecting survivor spousal benefits from the pension of her deceased husband, who was a retired municipal police officer in New Jersey. Surviving spouses are entitled to widow or widower’s benefits under the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System. Survivor benefits continue for life or until the surviving spouse remarries.
In November 2019, the Division of Pensions and Benefits notified OPIA that VonScheven had continued to receive survivor spousal benefits from her late husband’s pension despite the fact that she remarried on Jan. 15, 2010. It is alleged that VonScheven knew that her survivor benefits ceased when she remarried and nevertheless continued to receive the benefits every month until November 2019. In total, she received more than $268,000 in benefits to which she was not entitled.
Deputy Attorneys General John Nicodemo and Adam Gerken presented the case virtually to the state grand jury for the OPIA Corruption Bureau. Detective Sonya Carney was lead detective for OPIA, and Deputy Attorney General Mallory Shanahan also assisted. Attorney General Grewal thanked the Pension and Fraud Abuse Unit of the Department of the Treasury’s Division of Pension and Benefits for its investigation and referral.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000. The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Peter E. Warshaw in Mercer County, where VonScheven will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.