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Dublin: 15 °C Tuesday 29 July, 2014

Man dressed as dead mother for six years in welfare fraud

New York con artist collected his late mother’s Social Security payments after her death.

A still from footage prosecutors say shows Thomas Parkin, 49, (left) dressed as his mother.
A still from footage prosecutors say shows Thomas Parkin, 49, (left) dressed as his mother.
Image: AP Photo/Brooklyn District Attorney's office

A MAN WHO DRESSED up as his mother in a bizarre real estate fraud that involved doctoring her death certificate and cashing her Social Security cheques for six years after she died has been sentenced to at least 13 years in prison.

Thomas Parkin was convicted on 3 May of charges including grand larceny and mortgage fraud.

He was sentenced this week to 13 to 41 years in prison. Prosecutors said the scheme lasted six years and involved Parkin wearing a blond wig, dress and oversized sunglasses.

The 51-year-old Parkin said at sentencing that he never hurt anyone or used stolen funds for personal gain or injury.

When his mother, Irene Prusik, died in 2003 at age 73, he began impersonating her to cash her Social Security cheques and keep her $2.2 million brownstone in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope, prosecutors said.

The house had been deeded to Thomas Parkin, but he couldn’t make mortgage payments and the house was later sold at a foreclosure auction, prosecutors said.

Parkin and a co-defendant later sued the new owner under Prusik’s name, claiming real estate fraud and saying the auction was invalid in part because she was still alive, prosecutors said.

To maintain the ruse, Parkin doctored his mother’s death certificate and went to the Department of Motor Vehicles dressed as her in a blond wig, dress and oversized sunglasses so he could get a renewed license, prosecutors said. He also cashed Social Security cheques for six years, totaling about $44,000, they said.

Jurors deliberated for less than a day before finding him guilty. At trial, they were shown security footage of Parkin in drag in public, but his defence attorney said it could’ve been anyone.

As the property dispute dragged out, both sides eventually contacted the district attorney to accuse each other of fraud. By the time investigators arranged a meeting with the family, they had proof Prusik was dead: a photo of her tombstone in a local cemetery.

The investigators played along as Parkin showed up for the interview “wearing a red cardigan, lipstick, manicured nails and breathing through an oxygen tank,” prosecutors said.

A co-defendant, Mhilton Rimolo, 49, was sentenced in October 2010 to three years in prison after he was convicted of grand larceny.

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