SAN DIEGO – Donald Felix Zampach, 65, of Poway pleaded guilty in federal court on June 27 to money laundering and Social Security fraud, admitting that he fraudulently concealed his mother’s death for decades and that he received and then laundered hundreds of thousands of dollars in government benefits intended for her, that should have ceased upon her death.
According to his plea agreement, Zampach’s mother died in Japan in 1990, and at the time of her death she was receiving a widow’s pension from the Social Security Administration and an annuity from the Department of Defense Finance Accounting Service.
Just before his mother’s death, Zampach fraudulently conveyed her Poway home and filed for Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy, disclosing neither his ownership of the Poway home nor the government benefits payments he was receiving. After his mother’s death, Zampach maintained her bank accounts, forged her signature on certificates of eligibility to keep her government benefits in pay, and filed forged federal income tax returns, posing as his mother, for over two decades.
Zampach admitted that between November 1990 and September 2022, he received at least $830,238 in stolen public money intended for his mother. Zampach also admitted to using his mother’s identity to fraudulently open credit accounts with at least nine different financial institutions, causing them to suffer a loss of more than $28,000.
Zampach admitted to laundering the stolen money to pay off the mortgage on his Poway home, in order to conceal both his ownership of the Poway home and the fact that the money he used constituted criminal proceeds of his fraud.
Under the terms of his plea agreement, Zampach has agreed to pay more than $830,000 in criminal forfeiture, including the forfeiture of his Poway home to make restitution for his crimes.
“This crime is believed to be the longest-running and largest fraud of its kind in this district,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “This defendant didn’t just passively collect checks mailed to his deceased mother. This was an elaborate fraud spanning more than three decades that required aggressive action and deceit to maintain the ruse. He filed false income tax returns, posed as his mother and signed her name to many documents, and when investigators caught up to him, he continued to claim she was still alive.
“As a result of this fraud, he received more than $800,000 in stolen public money. For his deceit, he will face justice.”
Grossman thanked the prosecution team and investigating agencies for their diligence.
“For more than three decades, Mr. Zampach failed to report the death of his mother to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and used more than $250,000 in benefits for himself,” said Gail S. Ennis, inspector general for SSA. “We will continue to pursue and hold those accountable who defraud SSA. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey D. Hill for prosecuting this case.”
“Mr. Zampach’s guilty plea is an acknowledgement of his decades-long identity theft scheme in which he benefited financially from the theft of Department of Defense (DoD) and Social Security retirement benefits,” said DoD Inspector General Robert P. Storch. “The DoD Office of Inspector General, through the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, stands together with our law enforcement partners and the Department of Justice to hold accountable those who choose to engage in beneficiary fraud, particularly as it relates to the DoD.”
Zampach was released on bail pending his sentencing hearing, which is scheduled before U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo on Sept. 20 at 9 a.m.
Case number: 23cr1268-CAB
Summary of charges:
Money laundering – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1956(a)(1)(B)(i)
Maximum penalty: 20 years in prison and $500,000 fine
Social Security fraud – Title 42, U.S.C. Section 408(a)(4)
Maximum penalty: Five years in prison and $250,000 fine
Records from Dearborn Memorial Park in Poway show that Sawako Zampach was born on Sept. 28, 1929 and died on Oct. 22, 1990 at the age of 61.