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Couple nailed for long running pension scam

Date Posted: 2009-02-18

Shigemori Isa and his wife Tokiko had a pretty good scam going, collecting money for a long-dead grandmother and a brother who died during the Battle of Okinawa.
The coupleís illicit benefits claims spanned a 30-year period during which they fleeced several local governments more than •47 million. The scam came crashing down after curious city workers began wondering how a woman could be 115 years old and drawing benefits, yet her name not be on the city register.
The 70-year-old Shigemori Isa had begun the fraud decades ago, filing a claim with the former Gushikawa City Office to obtain his grandmotherís old age pension money. The grandmother had died in 1975, but Isa and his 57-year-old wife Tokiko signed affidavits she was still alive, and that they were to receive payments on her behalf, roughly •700,000 per year.
They added to the scam in 2002, filing for Okinawa Social Insurance on grandmaís behalf, scoring another •683,000 over a three-year period. Further compounding the scandal, officials discovered that the couple was also collecting money for his brother, the dead grandmotherís son. He died during the Battle of Okinawa, and benefits were rightfully the grandmotherís, but should have stopped when she died.
Uruma City says it has been giving an annual •5,000 stipend to the couple on the grandmotherís behalf, a total of •275,000 over 28 years. The old-age congratulations money is given to all citizens over age 75. Gushikawa City Office paid the couple before Uruma City began.
Officials scrambling to explain how the scam could go undetected for so long explained much relies on families providing the government with copies of death certificates. This time, the office staff was wondering about the 115-year-old lady, and went to the home to talk with her and offer congratulations on her long life. When they first visited, the couple told officials the grandmother wasnít home, but city officials became suspicious and finally made the fraud discovery.
Isa and his wife are both listed by authorities as unemployed.

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