Cincinnati man cashed deceased mother’s social security checks for 27 years

Posted at 9:11 PM, Jan 27, 2020

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Curtis Joash spent his dead mother’s social security checks for 27 years before the Social Security Administration finally discovered his fraud in 2017 and stopped it.

The former Cincinnati truck driver and pastor pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud and theft of public money after he admitted to stealing more than 300 monthly social security payments mistakenly paid to his mother, Novellar Butler.

In his plea agreement, Joash admitted to stealing a total of $187,665.

Photo: WCPO

“I made a mistake,” Joash, 75, told U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett on Jan. 13 during his sentencing hearing in Cincinnati.

Barrett sentenced Joash to five years of probation, including six months of home confinement. The judge also ordered him to pay $187,665 in restitution to the Social Security Administration.

Joash and his attorney, Richard Monahan, declined WCPO’s requests for a comment.

The Joash case prompted the I-Team to examine the administration’s efforts to investigate fraud and punish those responsible for it.

Agents uncovered Joash’s crimes through the Cooperative Disability Investigations, or CDI, program, which examines benefits paid to people who are at least 90 years old and haven’t used Medicare for the previous three years.

But audits and reports released last year by the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General reveal the administration still doesn’t have a reliable system for identifying and stopping payments to the deceased.

Related: Hayes caregiver pleads guilty to stealing $100K life insurance from client

Audits show the Social Security Administration paid benefits in 2019 to half of the people that had been identified as deceased in previous OIG audits.

The SSA estimates it made $8.2 billion in improper payments in Fiscal year 2018.

It’s unclear how much of that money was paid to the dead.

The SSA did not respond to WCPO’s email message requesting a comment for this story.