News Release

Cincinnati pastor sentenced after collecting his deceased father’s pension, Social Security payments fraudulently for more than four years

Pastor will restore $121K in payments, serve 180 days home confinement, 3 years’ probation

CINCINNATI, OH – A Cincinnati pastor who collected $121,344 in pension funds and Social Security benefits under his deceased father’s name for more than four years will serve 180 days home confinement, and 3 years’ probation after pleading guilty in federal court in Ohio on Sept. 30, 2020.

Melvin H. Godfrey II admitted that he received the funds fraudulently from the Central States Pension Plan and the U S. Social Security Administration in U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division. The pastor pleaded guilty to one count of theft of public money and one count of theft from an Employee Benefit Plan. His father died on Dec. 27, 2015.

The court’s action follows a U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration investigation that found Godfrey – pastor of Grace Through Faith Community Church – made phone calls and forged his father’s name – Melvin H Godfrey Sr., to documents to defraud the Social Security Administration and the Central States Pension Plan and used these funds after they were deposited into his father’s bank account for personal benefit. The fraud began in 2015 and ended in April 2020.

On April 20, 2021, Judge Matthew W. McFarland entered sentencing against Godfrey, ordering him to repay $91,228 in restitution to the Social Security Administration and $30,116 to the Central States Pension Plan. He will also pay an additional $200 special assessment.

 “Fraudulent acts like these diminish reserves for eligible beneficiaries and directly impact employee benefit plan participants,” said Employee Benefits Security Administration Regional Director L. Joe Rivers, in Cincinnati, Ohio. “The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration is committed to ensuring the integrity of employee benefit programs and prosecuting those that fail to comply with the law.”

The case was jointly investigated by the Social Security Administration, and the department’s Office of Inspector General and the Employee Benefits Security Administration’s Cincinnati Regional Office. The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Landry of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Ohio.

Employers and workers can reach EBSA toll-free at 866-444-3272 for help with problems related to private sector retirement and health plans. Additional information can be found at http://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa.

Case No. 1:20-cr-00119

Agency
Employee Benefits Security Administration
Date
April 21, 2021
Release Number
21-595-CHI
Contact: Scott Allen
Phone Number
Contact: Rhonda Burke
Phone Number
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