TRENTON –Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that an Atlantic County woman pleaded guilty today to stealing $140,873 in state pension benefits that continued to be paid for her mother for eight years after the mother died.
Diana A. Heil, 49, of Pleasantville, N.J., pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree theft by unlawful taking before Superior Court Judge Robert P. Becker Jr. in Gloucester County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Heil be sentenced to 364 days in the county jail as a condition of a term of probation. She must pay full restitution to the state. Heil is scheduled to be sentenced on March 8.
The state’s investigation revealed that, at the time of her death in 2005, Heil’s mother was receiving survivor’s benefits as the beneficiary of Heil’s deceased father, who had been a member of the New Jersey Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund. The Division of Pensions and Benefits did not learn of the mother’s death and continued for eight years to make monthly payments into a joint checking account that the mother shared with Heil. Those payments accrued in the mostly inactive checking account until 2013, when the bank alerted Heil about the deposits, and Heil in turn alerted the state about her mother’s death. The Division of Pensions and Benefits subsequently conducted an audit and contacted Heil about returning the funds that were deposited into the account. Heil acknowledged that the money did not belong to her and promised to return it, but she instead proceeded to make a series of large withdrawals and wire transfers from the bank account, resulting in the theft of approximately $140,873 in state funds.
Deputy Attorney General Brian Uzdavinis prosecuted Heil and took the guilty plea for the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability. It was investigated by detectives of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability. Attorney General Grewal thanked the Division of Pensions and Benefits for its valuable assistance in the investigation.
Assistant Deputy Public Defender Ronald Appleby, Gloucester