Woman who illegally collected nearly $300,000 in pension benefits sentenced to probation

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A West Seneca woman who illegally collected more than $290,000 from the Buffalo Firemen’s Pension Fund over a 33-year period will not have to serve jail time for her crime.

Pearlann MacVittie, 74, was sentenced to five years probation when she appeared in front of Hon. Kenneth Case in an Erie County Courtroom Thursday morning.

MacVittie’s attorney told the judge his client was “not your common criminal”. The prosecution in this case noted MacVittie’s cooperation with law enforcement and her poor health to explain why they sought probation instead of jail time for the defendant.

MacVittie’s mother was entitled to the Buffalo Firemen’s Pension benefits after her husband passed away, but when MacVittie’s mother passed herself in 1983, MacVittie continued to accept the checks.

She failed to inform the pension fund managers of her mother’s death and admitted to forging her mother’s signature on the yearly Acknowledgements of Pension Benefits forms.

MacVittie says most of the money she took was used to pay medical bills.

She came clean about what she did after an audit by the State Comptroller’s office turned up evidence of her crime in May 2016. Prosecutors say she made a full confession. MacVittie pleaded guilty to a Larceny charge in early April.

“Ms. MacVittie knew for decades she was not entitled to these pension payments, but she masqueraded as her own deceased mother to steal more than $290,000. Thanks to our Operation Integrity partnership, Attorney General Schneiderman and I were able to bring her to justice,” State Comptroller Thomas DiNappoli said in a written statement issued after Thursday’s sentencing.

MacVittie’s attorney says she’s truly remorseful, and putting the decades-long scheme behind her comes as a relief. “I kind of got into a trap and I didn’t know how to get out of it. I used the money for my husband. He’s been ill for a number of years,” MacVittie told the judge before he handed down her sentence Thursday.

“I don’t know, I’m sorry,” she added.

MacVittie’s larceny was uncovered by a join investigation by the State Comptroller’s Office and the Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Operation Integrity partnership of the Attorney General and Comptroller, to date, has resulted in dozens of convictions and more than $11 million in restitution.

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