LOS ANGELES - A Southern California man admitted to hiding his mother's death for over three decades while he collected more than $800,000 in government benefits on her behalf, according to the Department of Justice.
"This crime is believed to be the longest-running and largest fraud of its kind in this district," U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman in a statement.
Donald Felix Zampach, 65, of Poway, faces up to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty in federal court this week to money laundering and Social Security fraud.
Officials said Zampach hid the death of his mother, who died in Japan in 1990, and forged her signature on documents and income tax returns to continue getting her government benefits.
Zampach "fraudulently conveyed her Poway home and filed for Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy, disclosing neither his ownership of the Poway home nor the government benefits payments he was receiving," Grossman said.
His mother received both a widow’s pension through Social Security and an annuity from the Department of Defense’s Finance Accounting Service.
Prosecutors say Zampach forged her signature, opened at least nine credit cards in her name and filed fraudulent income tax returns for decades to keep up the scheme.
"Zampach admitted that between November 1990 and September 2022, he received at least $830,238 in stolen public money intended for his mother," the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The deception "required aggressive action and deceit to maintain the ruse," Grossman said. "He filed false income tax returns, posed as his mother and signed her name to many documents, and when investigators caught up to him, he continued to claim she was still alive."
Zampach faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. He is due back in court for sentencing on Sept. 20.
A California man admitted Tuesday that he covered up his mother’s death for more than 30 years while he collected more than $800,000 in government benefits intended for her. According to his plea agreement, 65-year-old Donald Felix Zampach’s mom died in Japan in 1990—which is when her Social Security widow’s pension and DoD annuity should have stopped being paid to her. But Zampach, of Poway, spent the next three decades tricking federal programs into thinking she was still alive—forging her signature and filing fake tax returns—while he raked in about $830,000 for himself. "This crime is believed to be the longest-running and largest fraud of its kind in this district," said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. "This defendant didn’t just passively collect checks mailed to his deceased mother. This was an elaborate fraud spanning more than three decades that required aggressive action and deceit to maintain the ruse." Even after investigators caught on to his scheme, Zampach continued to insist his mother was still alive, Grossman said. Zampach pleaded guilty to money laundering and Social Security fraud on Tuesday.