Illinois’ largest pension funds have been paying benefits to hundreds of deceased annuitants, a sign of weak protocols in some taxpayer-subsidized retirement systems.
Like most people whose late spouses drew a government pension, Shirley Ann Gibson began collecting a survivor’s pension after the death of her husband, James E. Gibson, a retired Chicago cop, in 2003.
Five years later, on Dec. 3, 2008, Mrs. Gibson died.
But, to the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago, the 67-year-old woman remained very much alive. For four and a half years after her death, fund officials kept direct-depositing her monthly pension payments — nearly $90,000 in all — into her bank account, which her daughter, Erika Gibson, had access to.
Erika Gibson’s involvement in a real estate deal led to questions about the account. That, in turn, led to a police investigation that revealed she hadn’t reported her mother’s death to the pension fund and had been stealing the money, according to court records.
Gibson, 42, of Hammond, Ind., pleaded guilty last December to felony theft. She immediately repaid a portion of the money — $10,050 — to the fund. A Cook County judge sentenced her to four years of probation and ordered her to repay another $77,712, through monthly installments, by the end of 2018.
So far, the pension fund hasn’t gotten any of that additional money.
"We have been in touch with the adult probation department to ascertain why the payments are not being made as promised," says David R. Kugler, the police pension fund’s lawyer.
Gibson couldn’t be reached for comment. Her lawyer says he hasn’t spoken with her since negotiating her plea deal.