A woman has been convicted of collecting Social Security retiree benefits from a man who died in 2008, US attorneys say

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — A woman has been convicted of stealing public funds after collecting Social Security benefits from a dead man since 2008, investigators say.

Panagiota Tsigelis, a Greek citizen who is a legal permanent resident of Houston, received benefits intended for a Social Security retiree from a man who died in 2008, according to US Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

After two days of trial, the jury deliberated for 90 minutes and convicted the 68-year-old on all 34 counts as a defendant.

During the trial, a Social Security representative stated that upon the death of a beneficiary, their retirement benefits should end.

A 2017 review of records revealed the deceased man was still receiving Social Security pension benefits, which were deposited directly into his checking account.

The jury also heard from a federal agent who was leading the investigation and a local executive at JP Morgan Chase Bank.

According to witnesses, Tsigelis claimed she was married to the person in Greece before he died. She said she believes she is still entitled to his surviving wife’s benefits, according to Lowery.

However, she prematurely admitted that she was never married to him and fabricated a relationship because she was scared, according to Lowery.

At the trial, Tsigelis argued that she didn’t understand the rules due to a language barrier and genuinely believed she was entitled to the money. The jury eventually convicted them as the defendants.

US District Judge Keith Ellison presided over the trial and set the verdict for June 7th. Tsigelis faces up to 20 years in federal prison. She could also face losing her legal status in the United States.

Tsigelis was allowed to remain on bail until that hearing.

The Social Security Administration – Office of the Inspector General conducted the investigation. Assistant US Attorney Benjamin C. Sandel and Assistant US Attorney Thomas H. Carter prosecuted the case.

Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All rights reserved. A woman has been convicted of collecting Social Security retiree benefits from a man who died in 2008, US attorneys say

Dais Johnston

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