New York pastor accused of cashing dead teacher's pension checks

NEW YORK Thu Oct 13, 2011 10:48pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York pastor has been arrested and accused of fraudulently cashing pension checks worth nearly a quarter-million dollars sent to a school teacher who died more than a decade ago, authorities said on Thursday.

Rev. Victor Rosa was accused of deceiving New York City's Teacher Retirement System into thinking that teacher Maria Sicardo was still alive and had her checks sent to a building he owns in the Bronx, investigators said.

He would cash the checks, which amounted to about $241,000, often at a local bank, investigators said. Investigators said they interviewed bank staff, who recalled Rosa often preached about God to other customers while waiting in line.

Sicardo died in April 2000 at age 75.

A report by the New York City's Department of Investigation said in the years after her death, someone sent fraudulently notarized documents to the Teacher Retirement System, purportedly signed by Sicardo, affirming that she was still alive.

In 2010, Rosa received a call from the Teacher Retirement System and told the caller that Sicardo had died three months earlier, in June 2010, in Puerto Rico, the report said.

He said he would return the checks for July, August and September, it said.

Investigators said they caught Rosa cashing the checks at a bank in the city's Bronx borough on security camera footage.

He was arrested last week in Orlando, Florida, where he now lives, and is slated to face prosecution by the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

(Corrects reference to defendant as a pastor in headline and first paragraph)

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen, editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Johnston)

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