TRENTON – An Atlantic County resident has been sentenced for stealing $140,873 in state pension benefits that were being paid in her mother’s name, eight years after she died.
Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said 49-year-old Diana A. Heil of Pleasantville will serve two years of probation.
Superior Court Judge Robert P. Becker Jr. in Gloucester County sentenced Heil to 364 days in the county jail to be served at the end of her term of probation, but the sentence will be waived if she complies with her probation conditions.
In the event she violates probation, Heil will be subject to the jail sentence.
She pleaded guilty in January to a charge of third-degree theft by unlawful taking. She must pay full restitution to the state, and she delivered approximately $14,000 of that money at the time of sentencing.
According to a press release from the State Attorney General’s Office, the state’s probe showed that, at the time of her death in 2005, Heil’s mother was receiving survivor’s benefits as the beneficiary of Heil’s deceased father, who had been a member of the New Jersey Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund.
The Division of Pensions and Benefits had no idea of the mother’s death and for eight years, continued to make payments into a joint account Heil shared with her.
Those payments accrued in the mostly inactive checking account until 2013, when the bank alerted Heil about the deposits. Heil in turn alerted the state about her mother’s death. The Division of Pensions and Benefits subsequently conducted an audit and contacted Heil about returning the funds that were deposited into the account.
Heil acknowledged that the money did not belong to her and promised to return it, but she instead proceeded to make a series of large withdrawals and wire transfers from the bank account, resulting in the theft of approximately $140,873 in state funds.