CHICAGO — A pension fund for retired Chicago city workers has sued a deceased retiree’s daughter, alleging she continued to collect the retired city worker's widow’s annuity benefit checks for more than 16 years by forging forms intended to verify her mother was alive.
The Retirement Board of the Municipal Employees’, Officers’ and Officials’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago filed its complaint Dec. 9 in Cook County Circuit Court. According to the complaint, Chicagoan Karen Coyle never reported the death of her mother, Ann Coyle, on April 8, 2002, meaning she “accepted and cashed 197 erroneous monthly annuity benefit checks” through October 2018, costing the fund $216,124.
The fund said it sent a signature verification request to the Doyle home in October 2007. It got the form back the following April with a notarized signature purportedly from Ann Coyle, although she had been dead more than six years at the time. In 2010, the fund sent a pension verification form; it was returned in July again with a notarized signature. The fund also sent pension verification forms in 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, all of which yielded a response complete with the required notified signature.
According to the complaint, the fund only learned of Ann Doyle’s death through the Illinois Department of Public Health sharing data in October 2018. The fund stopped the checks immediately and obtained a copy of Ann Doyle’s death certificate from the Cook County Clerk of Vital Records. On Sept. 30, 2019, the fund sent Karen Doyle a letter demanding full repayment within 30 days or that she contact fund officials to discuss the matter. As of the filing of the lawsuit, Karen Doyle had not responded to that letter, according to the complaint.
With the complaint, the pension fund included pension verification forms, showing stamps from several different notaries in Cook and DuPage Counties. On some of the forms Karen Doyle is listed as her mother’s alternate contact, but on the 2010 form the emergency contact is a neighbor, Joe Hooly. On the 2017 form, Karen Coyle is listed as a joint owner of the bank account to which the pension payouts were directly deposited, but in every other year, Ann Doyle is listed as the sole owner of that account.
According to the attached death certificate, Ann Doyle was 72 when she died at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn ad is buried in Evergreen Park. She was listed as having no surviving spouse. According to the fund’s complaint, her husband died in June 1991, and the fund started issuing widow’s annuity checks in July 1991.
Formal allegations include common law fraud, conversion and unjust enrichment. The fund wants the court to enter judgment forcing Doyle to repay it in full, along with attorney fees, interest and other costs.
Representing the fund in the matter is the firm of Burke Burns & Pinelli Ltd., of Chicago.