THE MAKINGS OF A MODERN NOVEL

Now and then something outrageously fraudulent arouses more interest in me than anger. An item in yesterday's newspaper got that reaction after I thought about it for a while. A 74 year old woman has been awarded six month's house arrest for continuing to receive and cash her father's social security checks for 31 years after his demise. She had regularly forged his name and cashed all of the 372 checks that came once a month since 1966. The average check was $434, not a large amount, but the sum of them totaled $161,000, and she will be forced to make restitution. Whether or not she has the means to do so wasn't mentioned.

My imagination pictured her as never being married, though the article didn't address her matrimonial status at all. The thought came to me of daddy's little girl, still single and dependent on her father at 42 when he died in 1966. Perhaps instead of an insurance policy, his only legacy to her was that social security check. The fact that he was receiving one suggests he was retired when he passed away, and perhaps she had been caring for him prior to his death.

I wondered how she'd managed to continue receiving monthly checks for so many years. The article said that standard government procedure is to verify recipients are still living when the person reaches 95, so it was not until 1997 that the scam was detected. Her father must have died when he was about 64, but the helpful post-death subsidy continued to support his little girl for nearly another third of a century. My mind plays funny tricks when it considers odd events like this one. I conjure up the picture of a man's only child, daddy's little girl for whom no prospective beau was ever good-enough, and that she remained a spinster with him all her life. The reality was most likely entirely different. She may have been married six times. She may still be married. Her father's last years may have been spent alone and in squalor, while all she did was cash his social security check, keep some for herself, and give him his pittance.

Without investigating the particulars of the case, no-one can say. But the unknown details are intriguing. They comprise the kind of thing the incomparable Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, could have turned into a great novel, full of avarice, passion, sorrow, and human frailty. It might easily have been worth the nearly two hundred thousand bucks we are out. Now, all we have left is the Associated Press and an indignant reporter. Where has the romance of this world gone!

Just the same, it might be wise for the Feds to instigate a search of death certificates for all men over 70 receiving social security. Until the recent discovery and release of Viagra, the years from 75 on up all seemed pretty bleak anyway.


Sam Orr sorr@metrolink.net
World Traveler
and Philanthrope
(Location Unknown)