PORTLAND, Ore. — A Klamath Falls man faces federal charges after he allegedly cashed more than $458,000 in Social Security checks issued in the name of his dead aunt over the span of more than four decades, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Oregon.
76-year-old George Doumar has been charged with theft of public funds and mail theft.
In February of 2020, the Social Security Administration began looking into the case of a 114-year-old "supercentarian" woman. She appeared to be the second-oldest living person in the U.S. to receive retirement benefits, but no updates had been made to her record in more than 30 years.
SSA records said that the woman was born on August 7, 1905 in New York City, and applied for benefits in August of 1970. She didn't begin receiving benefits until 1977, but had received a check every month through the decades since then.
The last known update to her record was in July of 1989, when her address was changed to Frontier Parcel & Fax Service on S 6th Street in Klamath Falls — a commercial mail receiving business that accepts mail from the U.S. Postal Service on behalf of third parties.
In March of 2020, the U.S. Attorney's Office said that an SSA investigator interviewed two of the woman's nieces. They both claimed that she died in the 1960s or '70s, and recalled attending her funeral in Brooklyn, where she had lived her entire life. The woman did not have any children and was not married, but one niece said that Doumar had been close to the aunt near the time of her death, and he was named as the sole beneficiary of her life insurance policy.
"Investigators soon discovered that Doumar himself was an active Social Security beneficiary and received his checks at the same address on S 6th Street in Klamath Falls," federal prosecutors said. "State of Oregon Employment Department records showed that Doumar had owned Frontier Parcel & Fax Service since 1990."
On May 1, the U.S. Attorney's Office said that a CARES Act stimulus payment of $1,200 was issued to Doumar’s aunt by the U.S. Treasury. Two weeks later, the check was deposited at a nearby bank after being endorsed with the "aunt’s purported signature."
By June, SSA investigators had found a copy of the aunt's death certificate, confirming that she had died in 1971 in Brooklyn.
"Investigators determined that Doumar had added his aunt to he and his wife’s shared checking account in 1989," the U.S. Attorney's office said. "His aunt’s Social Security checks were often bundled in deposits with other checks made payable to Doumar. Doumar’s account was used to pay for various living expenses including mortgage, car loan, medical, and utility payments."
On July 14, investigators from SSA and the U.S. Post Office confronted Doumar at his Klamath Falls home. When they asked about his aunt, the U.S. Attorney's Office said, "Doumar sighed, slumped his head, and stated, 'that's a long story . . . what happened was, well she's passed and yes, I've been collecting her Social Security.'"
If convicted in federal court, Doumar faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $25,000 fine, and three years on supervised release. Prosecutors will also seek restitution for SSA.