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Criminal Impersonation: Son Allegedly Dressed Like Dead Mother to Collect Benefits

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By Caleb Groos on June 18, 2009 12:58 PM

Yesterday, a New York Man was charged for dressing up like his mother. Well, dressing up like his mother for six years in order to collect $117,000 in government benefits. Along with grand larceny, he has been charged with criminal impersonation. When does impersonating someone else become criminal?

According to the AP, Thomas Parkin has a close relationship with his mother... as in Anthony Perkins, 'Psycho' close. Parkin claims to be his mother (citing the fact that he held her as she died). Authorities claim he "became" her in order to keep cashing in on government benefits after she died in 2003. He allegedly collected $65,000 in housing subsidies and $52,000 in social security payments in her name.

Things may have gone better for Parkin had he been a little more cautious. Instead, in a dispute over his mother's old house (in which he lived), he decided to sue its new owner on his (dead) mother's behalf. This alone was likely a step too far, but he went further. During the litigation, he contacted the District Attorney to accuse the other side of fraud.

The other side happened to also report Parkin for fraud, which led to a meeting set up by investigators. Though the investigators already knew his mother had passed, Parkin showed up in full form -- "wearing a red cardigan, lipstick, manicured nails and breathing through an oxygen tank," according to prosecutors.

As Parkin and his alleged accomplice have found, New York, like many states, has criminal impersonation statutes (in addition to grand larceny laws).

Like many states, New York criminalizes the impersonation of another person (or acting like a representative of a person or organization) in order to obtain a benefit, injure or defraud someone.

These statutes, including New York's, often specifically prohibit pretending to be a public servant with the intent to induce someone to submit to your supposed authority, solicit funds, or have someone rely upon your being a public servant.

Pretending to be a cop can land you in particularly hot water. In New York, any felony charge also brings a first degree felony criminal impersonation charge if you were impersonating a police officer while committing the alleged felony. While Mr. Parkin's case brings up numerous 'issues,' at least his mother was not a cop.

It should also be remembered that states also don't have to charge someone specifically for impersonation. As discussed in the cases of the faux Joba Chamberlain and the fake Foreigner drummer, disorderly conduct or whatever underlying charge exists (auto theft for example) can suffice.

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