Long Island woman indicted for stealing $135,000 death benefit

May 4, 2022 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Defendant Akosua Agyeman, 48, of Oceanside, New York, was arraigned on Wednesday before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Jill Konviser on an indictment in which she is charged with second-degree grand larceny, first-degree identity theft, first-degree offering a false instrument for filing and first-degree falsifying business records. The defendant allegedly submitted documentation claiming that she was her cousin to receive $135,178 in ordinary death benefits from the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS). She has been released without bail and ordered to appear in court on June 29, 2022. 

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez with Department of Investigation Commissioner Jocelyn E. Strauber said that, starting in December of 2017, defendant Agyeman claimed to be the daughter of New York City Transit Authority worker Kwaku Duah, who died on November 18, 2017. Duah had designated his daughter, who is the defendant’s cousin, as the beneficiary of a NYCERS death benefit, which is paid out when a member of NYCERS dies before retirement. Prior to Duah’s death, his daughter – the rightful recipient of the benefit – had changed her name before being designated as his beneficiary. This had allegedly allowed Agyeman to impersonate her cousin and wrongfully obtain the death benefit. 

Documentation Agyeman submitted to NYCERS are alleged to include a Ghanian passport and birth certificate, which was invalid for not reflecting the amended identity, along with an IRS taxpayer identification number which was in her cousin’s name. 

According to the investigation, NYCERS mailed a check for $135,178 on May 1, 2020, which the defendant deposited into a Federal Credit Union bank account. Investigators from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Ofcice and the Department of Investigation later determined that the bank account was opened using a fraudulent Delaware driver’s license. In addition, the defendant allegedly visited the Brooklyn NYCERS customer service center in December of 2017, where she submitted an invalid copy of her cousin’s birth certificate in inquiring about the process of receiving the death benefit. 

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, together with New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Jocelyn E. Strauber, today announced that a Long Island woman has been indicted for stealing $135,178 in ordinary death benefits from the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS). As part of the theft, the defendant is alleged to have impersonated a cousin who was the rightful beneficiary of the benefit following the death of the cousin’s father, a New York City transit worker.

“This defendant allegedly attempted to defraud New York’s retirement system by impersonating a relative and claiming benefits to which she was not entitled,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. “I would like to thank Department of Investigation and my prosecutors for all the work they did to bring this defendant to justice.”

Commissioner Strauber said, “As charged in the indictment, this defendant impersonated her own cousin, including through the use of fraudulent documents, to obtain a $135,000 death benefit. In so doing, she stole from her cousin, the legal beneficiary, and from the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS). I thank NYCERS for promptly alerting DOI so that we could uncover this alleged scheme, and the dedicated prosecutors at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for their partnership in holding accountable those who improperly enrich themselves with city funds at the expense of legitimate beneficiaries.”

The case was investigated by Department of Investigation Special Investigator Shakina Griffith-Mercado, under the supervision of Deputy Inspector General David Jordan and Inspector General Ann Petterson.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Adam Libove, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Laura Neubauer, Bureau Chief, Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of Investigations.

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