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Son of Deceased Public School Teacher Pleads Guilty to Stealing Over $100K in Retirement Benefits

PRESS ADVISORY

Son of Deceased Public School Teacher Pleads Guilty to Stealing Over $100K in Retirement Benefits

January 30, 2013

Yesterday, Levon Chett Barrett pleaded guilty to one count of Violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) (O.C.G.A. § 16-14-4(a)) for stealing retirement payments from the Teachers’ Retirement System of Georgia (TRS). He was sentenced by Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Ronnie K. Batchelor to two years in prison, followed by one year on house arrest and seven years probation. He was also ordered to pay $112,337.45 in restitution -- $85,712.52 to the Teachers’ Retirement System of Georgia and $26,624.93 to the Social Security Administration.

Barrett is the son of a retired Atlanta school teacher who began receiving retirement benefits in May 1997. The benefits were electronically transferred into Ms. Barrett’s checking account. Unbeknownst to TRS, Ms. Barrett died in September 2007. TRS continued paying retirement benefits until it discovered Ms. Barrett’s death in February 2010 via a call from the Atlanta Public Schools’ Human Resources Office.

An investigation revealed that the defendant stole the funds from his deceased mother’s account through use of a PIN-based financial transaction card, either by withdrawing funds directly from ATMs or by using the card to conduct in-person, telephonic, or on-line credit/debit financial transactions. When interviewed the by Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) in July 2012, the defendant admitted to withdrawing and using funds from his mother’s account after her death. 

Between October 2007 and February 2010, the defendant stole $85,712.52 in TRS funds from his mother’s bank account.

Assistant Attorney General Shepard Orlow prosecuted the case on behalf of the State of Georgia. The case was investigated by Special Agent Rocky Bigham of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.