Ex-CTA workers faked kids’ deaths, stole coworkers’ IDs: authorities

Two former Chicago Transit Authority employees are accused of submitting fake death certificates for their children and stealing coworkers’ identities to take thousands of dollars in retirement funds from a transit agency program.

Illinois Attorney Gen. Lisa Madigan’s office announced charges Wednesday against Donella Anderson Watkins, 41, and Sammie Watkins, 55, a married couple from south suburban Lansing.

“The defendants took unthinkable steps to attempt to avoid tax penalties and steal retirement funds from their coworkers,” Madigan said in a statement. “My office will ensure they are held accountable for concocting this elaborate, illegal scheme.”

Former CTA workers, the couple submitted fake death certificates for living children to create an “emergency need” for funeral expenses — allowing them to withdraw funds from their own deferred compensation accounts without incurring a tax penalty, authorities allege.

They also took other CTA employees’ identities and submitted false withdrawal forms on their behalf without the other employees knowing, authorities allege.

The scheme came to light after Sammie Watkins attempted to make an emergency withdrawal from the CTA’s deferred compensation plan in another employee’s name, according to authorities.

An investigation by the attorney general’s office found Donella Anderson Watkins had succeeded in taking $18,000 in a co-worker’s name, authorities say.

She is charged with wire fraud, identity theft and continuing a financial crimes enterprise, while her husband is facing wire fraud and attempted identity theft charges, according to Madigan’s office.

“The CTA initiated the investigation in mid-2012 and then turned over information to the state inspector general, whose subsequent work resulted in the AG’s indictment today,” CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski said in a statement.

Both employees were fired by the CTA in July 2013, Hosinski said.

Both appeared in Cook County criminal court Wednesday and were ordered held on $60,000 bond, officials said. They will next appear in court June 18.