Perth Amboy zoning officer charged with stealing $184,936 in Social Security benefits

Perth Amboy police chaplain and zoning official Lance Nelson

A Perth Amboy police chaplain charged with stealing his late great aunt’s Social Security benefits for 18 years made his initial court appearance last week.

Lance Nelson, 56, of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with stealing $184,936 in benefits from the Social Security Administration between 1998 and 2016.

Nelson appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven C. Mannion in Newark federal court Wednesday, according to U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick.

According to the complaint, Nelson’s great aunt received Social Security benefits, which were sent to a joint bank account that she shared with Nelson at Bank of America.

In February 1998, the women died, but the Social Security Administration was unaware of her death and continued to issue her monthly retirement benefits.

From March 1998 until February 2016, the Social Security Administration sent $184,936 to the joint account.  

Nelson, who was not entitled to those retirement benefits, used the money for himself.

Between August 2009 and March 2016, Nelson caused $52,367 to be transferred from the joint account into his own individual savings and checking accounts. He also used ATMs to withdraw approximately $30,000 from the joint account between April 2011 and October 2015.

Since at least 1998, Nelson earned $36,868 to $64,272 per year as an assistant zoning officer for the City of Perth Amboy.

A profile on says Nelson has also been a Perth Amboy police chaplain for five years and the Senior Pastor at New Beginnings Church and Ministry.

The theft of federal funds charge carries a maximum potential penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss associated with the offense.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents with the Social Security Administration – Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge John F. Grasso of the New York Field Division, with the investigation leading to the charge.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cari Fais of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.

The charge and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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