No prison for cashing dead man’s checks

Defendant must repay $47k to Social Security
By: 

Kevin Murphy, Times Herald Correspondent

An Abrams man who collected a veteran’s pension for nine years after the veteran died was placed on five years’ supervised release Monday in federal court and ordered to make restitution of $47,464.

Daniel J. Rieman, 56, had previously pleaded guilty to theft of public money.

According to U.S. District Court documents:

Rieman was like a son to Charles and Joan Fletcher. He had them move into his house in 2007. He and Charles took care of Joan after she contracted cancer until her death shortly thereafter. Charles also developed health problems and died in April 2009.

Rieman never charged the Fletchers for food or rent as their Social Security income was spent mainly on medical bills.

After Charles Fletcher died, Rieman used some of Fletcher’s pension funds to pay the veteran’s medical bills and funeral expenses.

When the Fletcher’s pension checks kept coming, Rieman, who had Fletcher’s power of attorney, believed he could cash the checks because he was Charles’ beneficiary and caretaker. Rieman forged Fletcher’s signature and cashed the checks.

In April 2013, Rieman arranged for Fletcher’s checks to be electronically deposited in one of the Fletcher’ bank accounts that Rieman controlled

A Veterans Administration audit revealed that after Fletcher’s death, his checks continued to be issued and deposited.

In an interview, Rieman told an investigator that he knew it was wrong to cash the checks and to use the proceeds for his own expenses.

In seeking a probation-only sentence, Rieman’s attorney, Krista Halla-Valdes, wrote the court that Rieman had an excellent work history, including working as a cook at the Blackstone Restaurants in Green Bay for 23 years.

However, without health insurance, he did not have the money to pay his medical bills when he developed Bell’s palsy and cataracts in both eyes.

Rieman became legally blind last year and this year was terminated from his job for safety reasons, Halla-Valdes said.

In August, he was enrolled in BadgerCare and had cataract surgery on one eye.

Halla-Valdes also wrote that Rieman is not a dangerous individual and his medical conditions would make him a vulnerable person in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Roach said the government joined the defense in asking for a sentence of probation but also some jail time with Huber privileges due to the length of the crime and the amount involved.

However, District Judge William Griesbach concluded that a probation-only sentence was appropriate given Rieman’s lack of prior criminal convictions, his genuine remorse for the offense, and the hardship his health issues would create in prison.