New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced the guilty plea of Hempstead resident Cynthia Rozzell for stealing over $240,000 in pension benefits issued to her deceased mother, Mary Garrett, by the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System (NYSTRS) between May 2014 and May 2020. Rozzell pleaded guilty to Grand Larceny in the Second Degree before the Honorable Judge William Little in Albany County Court, with sentencing expected on October 4, 2022. Judge Little issued a restitution order for $240,000.
“Pension theft is not a victimless crime. By stealing her deceased mother’s pension benefits, Ms. Rozzell dishonored countless hardworking New Yorkers who have dedicated their lives to one of our most noble professions: teaching and enriching our youth,” said Attorney General James. “My office will continue to prosecute those who attempt to undermine our retirement systems and steal from the individuals whose lives and livelihoods depend on these hard-earned benefits.”
Cynthia Rozzell’s mother, Mary Garrett, was a NYSTRS pensioner who retired from the Malverne Union Free School District in 1996. Upon her retirement, Garrett opted for the maximum payout rather than designate a beneficiary to receive her benefits after her death. However, when Garrett died in 2014, her monthly pension benefits continued to be deposited in her bank account and Rozzell subsequently diverted the payments to her own account. Over the course of six years, Rozzell stole more than $240,000 in pension benefits before NYSTRS discovered her mother’s death and ceased the payments.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) would like to thank the New York State Police’s Financial Crimes Unit for their assistance in this investigation.
The OAG investigation was conducted by Detective Dennis Churns under the supervision of Deputy Chief and Acting Commanding Officer Edward Carrasco of the Major Investigations Unit. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Investigator Oliver Pu-Folkes and First Deputy Chief John Reidy.
The OAG case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Christopher Baynes with the assistance of Senior Analyst Sara Pogorzelski. The Public Integrity Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Gerard Murphy and Deputy Bureau Chief Kiran Heer. Both the Public Integrity Bureau and the Investigations Bureau are part of the Division for Criminal Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.