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Man dressed up as his dead mother to keep home, benefits

Thomas Parkin, left, seen on a Department of Motor Vehicles security camera, dressed up as his mother.

Thomas Parkin, left, seen on a Department of Motor Vehicles security camera, dressed up as his mother.

A New York man who dressed up as his mother in a bizarre property fraud that involved doctoring her death certificate and cashing her pension cheques for six years after she died has been jailed for more than 13 years.

Thomas Parkin, who was convicted on May 3 on charges including grand larceny and mortgage fraud, was sentenced yesterday to 13 to 41 years in prison.

Prosecutors said the scheme lasted six years and involved Parkin wearing a blonde wig, dress and oversized sunglasses.

Parkin, 51, told his sentencing hearing that he never hurt anyone or used stolen funds for personal gain or injury.

When his mother, Irene Prusik, 73, died in 2003, he began impersonating her to cash her Social Security cheques and keep her 2.2 million-dollar (£1.39m) home in Park Slope, a leafy neighbourhood in Brooklyn, New York City, prosecutors said.

The house had been deeded to Parkin, but he could not make mortgage payments and the house was later sold at a repossession auction, prosecutors said.

Parkin and a co-defendant later sued the new owner under Ms Prusik's name, claiming property fraud and saying the auction was invalid in part because she was still alive, the court was told.

To maintain the ruse, Parkin doctored his mother's death certificate and went to the Department of Motor Vehicles dressed as her in a wig, dress and sunglasses so he could get a renewed licence, prosecutors said. He also cashed pension cheques for six years, totalling about 44,000 dollars (£27,848), they said.

Jurors deliberated for less than a day before finding him guilty. At trial, they were shown security footage of Parkin in drag in public, but his defence lawyer said it could have been anyone.

As the property dispute dragged out, both sides eventually contacted the district attorney to accuse each other of fraud. By the time investigators arranged a meeting with the family, they had proof Ms Prusik was dead - a photo of her tombstone in a local cemetery.

The investigators played along as Parkin arrived for the interview "wearing a red cardigan, lipstick, manicured nails and breathing through an oxygen tank", prosecutors said.

A co-defendant, Mhilton Rimolo, 49, was sentenced in October 2010 to three years in prison after he was convicted of grand larceny.

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