St. Petersburg Times--North Pinellas

Woman charged in theft of relative's pension checks
A great-niece is accused of depositing more than a dozen checks in her own account after his death.
By CHRIS TISCH, Times Staff Writer
St. Petersburg Times
published June 12, 2003

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CLEARWATER - The great-niece of a retired Clearwater firefighter has been charged with illegally collecting more than $25,000 of his pension benefits after he died.

Cheri Potoshnik, 45, was charged Tuesday with grand theft. She posted $10,000 bail and was released from the Pinellas County Jail.

Potoshnik is the great-niece of former firefighter John Londers, who worked for the fire department from 1949 until 1971, when he resigned because of poor eyesight.

Londers at some point made Potoshnik his personal representative. She signed forms promising to inform the city when Londers died.

Because Londers had no wife or children, his pension benefits should have ended upon his death, said Sgt. George Koder, who investigated the case for the Clearwater Police Department.

But in 2000, city officials sent forms to Londers' family asking to ensure their files were updated. A family member informed them that Londers had died on May 4, 1999, at the age of 87, Koder said.

City officials then figured that Potoshnik had collected her great-uncle's pension benefits after his death. They tried to get her to pay the money back, but she never did, Koder said.

Last year, the Police Department began a criminal investigation. Koder subpoenaed Potoshnik's bank account records and learned she had deposited 13 of her great-uncle's pension checks into her account after his death. The thefts occurred from June 1999 to May 2000, according to reports