A California man has admitted hiding his mother’s death from the federal government for more than three decades so he could raise more than $800,000 in benefits intended for her, prosecutors said.
The man, Donald Felix Zampach, 65, pleaded guilty last week in US District Court in San Diego to one count of money laundering and one count of Social Security fraud.
None of the $830,238 Mr. Zampach received under the program would have been paid had the various government agencies been notified of his death, prosecutors said. Mr. Zampach also took over his mother’s home in Poway, California, while she was still in his name.
The charges to which Mr. Zampach pleaded guilty carry a total maximum prison sentence of 25 years, but federal guidelines on sentencing it would most likely place his sentence somewhere in the 30- to 37-month range since he has no known criminal record, according to Jeffrey D. Hill, an assistant U.S. special attorney.
Mr. Zampach is on bail and awaits sentencing on Sept. 20.
« He’s overwhelmed with regret, » Knut Johnson, Mr. Zampach’s attorney, said in an email.
As part of his plea deal, Mr. Zampach has agreed to give up more than $830,000, including his home, to compensate a dozen victims, including several lenders with whom he opened lines of credit by posing as his mother. , prosecutors said. Those lenders lost more than $28,000 as a result of Mr. Zampach’s actions, prosecutors said.
Mr. Zampach’s mother, identified in court documents only by the initials STZ, died on October 22, 1990 in Japan after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and moved to her native country from the United States, records show. court documents. She was 61 when she died, according to Mr. Hill, and she would have been 93 if she were alive today.
Most of the money Mr. Zampach got came from monthly Social Security administration payments and an annuity paid by the Defense Finance Accounting Service, which pays benefits to survivors of military veterans. His mother’s spouse was a US Navy veteran, according to Mr. Hill. Mr. Zampach was awarded $253,714 from the Social Security Administration and $563,626 from the Defense Finance Accounting Service.
Mr. Zampach’s plan to collect his mother’s benefits began shortly after her death, according to court documents.
In November 1990, Mr. Zampach submitted a form to notify his death to the U.S. embassy in Tokyo, but left a box on the form blank asking for his Social Security number, prosecutors said. When he returned to the United States with his mother’s remains, he also withheld her Social Security number from an application for a burial permit.
Mr. Zampach admitted both omissions were intended to hide his mother’s death from government agencies so she could receive her benefits. He kept the ploy going until September 2022, forging his signature on government documents to keep payments flowing. Some years she filed tax returns in his name.
But Mr. Zampach’s plan began to fall apart when his mother became the linchpin an audit of the Social Security Administration of people age 90 and older who had not received Medicare benefits. The audit checks whether those people are still alive.
In June 2022, Mr. Zampach lied to a Social Security Administration investigator, saying « his mother was alive and in Japan, » according to the plea deal.
As part of the conditions of his pre-sentencing release, Mr Zampach, who says he has dementia and auditory and visual hallucinations, must seek psychiatric or psychological treatment, court documents show.