A Kansas couple has been charged with fraudulently collecting a dead relative’s retirement benefits while they hid his body in their home for more than six years.
Federal prosecutors alleged that Lynn and Kirk Ritter, both 61, cashed in more than $216,000 from Michael Carroll’s pension and Social Security Administration benefits, according to an indictment obtained by USA TODAY. Carroll, who was a retired telecommunications employee, began receiving retirement benefits in 2008 and received them until November 2022.
But authorities say Carroll’s pacemaker showed that he died in 2016 at 81 years old and police in Overland Park, a suburb in the Kansas City metropolitan area, didn’t discover his body until 2022 after Kirk Ritter, his son-in-law, reported his death.
“Both Lynn Ritter and Kirk Ritter concealed the death of (Michael Carroll) to continue to receive payments from the (pension and Social Security Administration), and to prevent them from losing access to Carroll’s bank account,” the indictment states.
The couple each face one count of wire fraud and two counts of theft of government funds, which could according to the indictment. They are due to appear in federal court on Feb. 2.
Kansas police found Mike Carroll’s body ‘mummified’
Lynn, who is Carroll’s daughter and was cited as his primary caretaker, and Kirk Ritter had been living with Carroll in a single-family residence in Overland Park since the 1990s, family members told the Kansas City Star. The newspaper reported that the couple had been financially dependent on Carroll.
After his death, the Ritters continued using Carroll’s home as their official residence, according to the indictment. But the couple did not report his death to the authorities at the time, and his monthly benefit and pension continued to be directly deposited into Carroll’s bank account.
Prosecutors say the couple deposited unauthorized checks from Carroll’s bank account that had been written to both of them. The couple “also transferred funds, without authority, from (Carroll’s) account to their own bank accounts and used the funds for their own personal benefit,” the indictment states.
Neither Lynn or Kyle Ritter were entitled to receiving Carroll’s benefits, according to the indictment. Prosecutors said the pension and Social Security payments Carroll received over the six years after his death totaled $216,067.
On October 23, 2022, Kirk Ritter contacted the Overland Park Police Department and reported Carroll’s death, the indictment states. Law enforcement arrived at their residence to discover Carroll “lying in a bed, in a mummified state.”
It was later determined that Carroll had died around July 1, 2016.
Report: Married couple concealed death from other relatives
Family members told the Kansas City Star that the Ritters would repeatedly give them excuses about why Carroll could never take a phone call or visit, leading them to believe that Carroll was still alive.
“We were denied contact with him,” Carroll’s niece Janet Carroll told the newspaper last year. “And now we know why.”
The newspaper reported that police initially investigated the case as a suspicious death but the county medical examiner later determined Carroll died of natural causes.
Contributing: The Associated Press