The niece of a woman who passed away in 1998 has been stealing federal retirement benefits ever since, according to officials.

On Thursday, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey announced a wire fraud charge against 77-year-old South Orange resident Janis Miller.

According to documents in the case, the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management were unaware when Miller's aunt passed away in 1998.

The payments kept coming in, and through June 2023, Miller had a scheme in place to use the funds herself, according to officials.

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Overall, her deceased aunt's bank account took in more than $1 million in benefits. According to officials, Miller unlawfully withdrew virtually all of those funds — via debit card, forged checks, and cash withdrawals.

In 2022, Miller impersonated her dead aunt in a telephone conversation with a Social Security Administration employee, case documents say.

According to officials, Miller provided the employee with her aunt's "approximate birthdate." The federal government later discovered the fraud and discontinued the benefits.

The wire fraud count is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. If found guilty, Miller would also be on the hook for the stolen money.

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