Poway Man Sentenced to 2 Years for Taking Benefits of $830, 238 Intended for Dead Mother

Courtroom gavel
A courtroom gavel. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

 A Poway man who hid his mother’s death for over three decades in order to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in government benefits was sentenced Friday to two years in federal prison.

Donald Felix Zampach, 65, collected $830,238 meant for his mother following her death from pancreatic cancer in 1990.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Zampach posed as his mother on official forms in order to continue receiving her benefits, including by forging her signature on certificates of eligibility and filing forged tax returns under her name.

Prosecutors said Zampach also laundered the stolen funds to pay off the mortgage on his home and used his mother’s identity to open accounts with at least nine financial institutions, causing them to lose over $28,000.

A prosecution sentencing memorandum states that the fraud led to “the largest financial loss that the United States Government has suffered in any individual deceased beneficiary case that has been federally prosecuted.”

At Zampach’s sentencing hearing, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Hill reiterated that point and said the loss was the largest in such a case “in the history of the United States.”

Zampach’s defense attorney, Knut Johnson, argued that longstanding severe mental illness contributed to Zampach’s continuation of the fraud.

Johnson wrote in his sentencing papers, “This is not the case of a person who stole $800,000.00 and bought frivolous items — it is the case of a mentally ill man unable to care for himself who could not leave his childhood home and so continued to receive (his mother’s) modest retirement checks.”

Hill argued Zampach’s mental health issues did not prevent him from carrying out a calculated, methodical scheme to steal benefits over many years.

“Whenever it was in his financial interest to do so, Mr. Zampach was very capable of dissembling and keeping up this ruse over a matter of decades,” the prosecutor said.

Zampach pleaded guilty earlier this year to federal money laundering and Social Security fraud charges. As part of his plea agreement, he’s expected to pay over $850,000 and forfeit his home in order to make restitution.

–City News Service