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Lumberton woman who pocketed dead brother's military pension to face sentencing

KFDM

More than four years after Donald Brown died in Lumberton, his sister will be sentenced for theft after federal prosecutors say she pocketed more than $50,000 in Brown's military pension since his death.

Donna Flores, 60, pleaded guilty to theft of government funds earlier this year and is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 18, federal court records show.

Brown applied for pension benefits in January 2013, but he died the following March. The Department of Veteran Affairs, unaware of Brown's death, approved his application retroactively in May 2013, court documents state.

"The Department of Veterans Affairs was not notified of Brown's death and continued to process the application for pension benefits," an April factual basis and stipulation document says.

A check for $5,196 was mailed to Brown's address in May 2013, two months after his death, and his signature was forged to make a down payment on a vehicle from Cowboy Motor Company.

The document specifies that the salesperson at Cowboy Motor knew Flores took care of her brother, but was unaware of his death.

"Records from the Department of Veterans Affairs would reflect that in June 2013 the Pension Management Center established direct deposit of Brown's pension benefits to a Comerica Bank Direct Express Debit Mastercard in the name of Donald Brown," the factual basis and stipulation says. "Records from Comerica Bank establish that from June 2013 to December 2015 monthly pension benefits of 1,732 was deposited to the debit card on behalf of Brown for a total of $51,268. The entire amount of funds was depleted during that time period through a series of retail purchases and ATM withdrawals. Photographs from several ATM transactions reflect the defendant Donna Flores making the transactions."

Federal prosecutors say the total loss to Veteran Affairs was $58,196.

The theft charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

Plea negotiations between prosecutors and Flores' attorney Bryan Laine are still sealed. She is set for sentencing Oct. 18 in Judge Thad Heartfield's courtroom in Beaumont.


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