NEW YORK (AP) – Irene Prusik has been dead for six years. But in April, someone showed up at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Brooklyn to renew her driver’s license. It was her son, in drag.

Thomas Parkin, 49, was charged Wednesday in the bizarre plot to impersonate his deceased mother so he could collect $117,000 in government benefits. He and the man accused of being his accomplice, Mhilton Rimolo, pleaded not guilty to grand larceny, criminal impersonation and other charges. Both men were ordered held on $1 million bail.

District Attorney Charles Hynes said the scam was “unparalleled in its scope and brazenness.”

Authorities claim that following his arrest, Parkin told them that because he held Prusik when she breathed her last breath, “I am my mother.”

Parkin, who lived with his mother, was accused of hatching the scheme after she passed away in 2003 at age 73. He managed to conceal the death by falsifying her death certificate, then collected $52,000 from her $700-a-month Social Security checks over the next six years, prosecutors said.

Authorities say Parkin also got another $65,000 in rent subsidies by falsely claiming he had a disability and that his mother was alive and his landlord.

The ruse began to unravel amid a dispute over the mother’s home, which was sold at foreclosure in 2003. Parkin challenged the purchase by suing the new owner on his mother’s behalf so he wouldn’t be evicted.

Both sides eventually contacted the district attorney to accuse each other of fraud. By the time investigators arranged a meeting in May, they already had proof Prusik was dead: a photo of her tombstone.

Investigators played along as Parkin showed up “wearing a red cardigan, lipstick, manicured nails and breathing through an oxygen tank.”


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