A Hempstead woman has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $240,000 in state pension benefits issued to her deceased mother, a former employee with the Malverne school district, Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday.
Cynthia Rozzell, who pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny in an upstate Albany County courtroom, is expected to be sentenced Oct. 4, according to James' office.
Rozzell diverted the payments from May 2014 to May 2020, when the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System learned of her mother's death and stopped issuing the pension funds, the release said.
"Over the course of six years, Rozzell stole more than $240,000 in pension benefits before NYSTRS discovered her mother’s death and ceased the payments," the release said.
“Pension theft is not a victimless crime. By stealing her deceased mother’s pension benefits, Ms. Rozzell dishonored countless hardworking New Yorkers who have dedicated their lives to one of our most noble professions: teaching and enriching our youth,” James said. “My office will continue to prosecute those who attempt to undermine our retirement systems and steal from the individuals whose lives and livelihoods depend on these hard-earned benefits.”
Rozzell’s lawyer, Guy Allen of Uniondale, could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday night.
Her mother, Mary Garrett, retired from the Malverne school district in 1996. She had chosen to get a maximum pension payout issued by the Teachers' Retirement System instead of designating a beneficiary to receive her benefits in the event of her death, according to the release. James' office did not specify Mary Garrett's position in Malverne or how long she had worked in the school district.
When Garrett died in 2014, the monthly pension benefits went into her bank account, but Rozzell diverted that money into her account, the release said.
Rozzell was arrested on Oct. 7, 2021, said a spokeswoman for the state Attorney General's Office.