INKSTER, Mich. – A Metro Detroit man accused of covering up a retiree's death for 14 years to collect benefit payments changed his story several times and provided a mysterious description about what might have happened to the man's body, according to federal officials.
The case arose when the United States Office of Personnel Management and Office of the Inspector General was reviewing the recipients of annuity funds older than 90 years old who hadn't made health care claims in 10 years.
Officials wanted to locate Jacque R. Farmer and verify whether he was still alive.
Farmer had received a government annuity due to his retirement from the U.S. Post Office on May 28, 1971. He received monthly payments after that date, officials said.
From November 1999 through October 2018, the monthly payments were deposited into a Comerica Bank account in Detroit, according to records.
On Dec. 3, 2012, the OPM sent Farmer an address verification letter to verify that he was still alive and the payments should continue, officials said.
Records show the letter was returned Dec. 6, 2012, with Farmer's name, but the signature on the form didn't appear to match the one on file, authorities said.
Farmer's Social Security number was handwritten on the form for identification, officials said. Officials with the OPM said they relied on this information as proof that Farmer was alive and continued the payments.
Questionable signatures submitted
Officials said they had received a designation of beneficiary form on Sept. 25, 2004, that listed Kendrick Allen Gills, then of Westland, as the beneficiary. The signature on the form appeared to accurately match Farmer's signature, court records show.
On Oct. 7, 2004, the OPM received a designation of beneficiary form that changed the beneficiary from Farmer's wife to GIlls, officials said. The signatures on the forms did not appear to match, according to authorities.
The OPM received another designation of beneficiary form Jan. 22, 2013, that listed Ron and Darlene Farmer as beneficiaries, but the signature did not appear to match Farmer's, court records show.
Current homeowner says Farmer died
A special agent tried to contact Farmer on Aug. 30, 2018, at his last known addressed on Spruce Street in Inkster, officials said.
The woman living at the home told agents Farmer didn't live there. She told them he was "gone" and confirmed she meant he had died, according to authorities.
When agents asked to speak with Gills, the woman said he wasn't there either but gave them his phone number, officials said.
Gills says Farmer can't speak over phone
Federal officials said they called Gills later that day and told him they were trying to locate Farmer about an underpayment of his retirement annuity.
Gills told agents that Farmer wasn't available to speak and that due to Farmer's age, he couldn't hear or communicate over the phone, according to court records.
Gills asked agents to send any paperwork needed to collect the underpayment to the Spruce Street address and he would make sure Farmer completed the forms, officials said.
Gills said Farmer was "up in age" and "not doing real good," according to authorities.
Agents said Gills told them Farmer could barely communicate and didn't know what was going on around him.
Gills claimed Farmer was in St. Louis
Agents asked Gills if Farmer still lived at the Spruce Street address, and Gills told them he did not, court records show.
Gills said he didn't know where Farmer was and that he hadn't seen him in more than six months, officials said.
He said Farmer was somewhere in the St. Louis, Missouri, area, living with his grandsons, officials said.
When agents asked if Gills had contact information for the grandsons, he said they did not get along, according to authorities.
Court records show agents believed Gills was unable or unwilling to provide contact information for Farmer.
Gills interviewed in person
On Feb. 14, 2019, agents interviewed Gills at the home on Spruce Street.
Gills said Farmer was alive but that they hadn't seen each other in six months, officials said. When agents told Gills he had said the same thing about six months earlier, he admitted to being untruthful, according to officials.
Gills said he had not seen Farmer since 2013, court records show.
Admission of forged signatures
Agents showed Gills the address verification letter from Sept. 2, 2017, and he admitted to filling out the form, officials said. Gills said he got some people at a store to sign the form as witnesses, according to officials.
According to court documents, Gills said he hadn't seen Farmer since 2013 and knew that if he didn't send in the form, the benefit payments would stop.
Gills also admitted to signing Farmer's name on the designation of beneficiary forms in January 2013 and September 2004, officials said. He said Farmer signed the August 2004 form, but he admitted to filling out the rest, court records show.
Agents said they showed Gills bank records from the joint Comerica Bank account with Farmer and Gills. They said he admitted to writing a May 7 check, scratching out his name and forging Farmer's name.
Gills also admitted to withdrawing large amounts of cash from the account and spending it for his own personal use, according to court documents.
Gills says Farmer disappeared during store run
Gills told federal officials Farmer was like a father to him, agents said.
Gills told agents he had gone to the store one day in 2013 while he was living with Farmer in an apartment in Wayne, records show.
He said when he returned from the store, Farmer was gone, according to authorities. Gills said Farmer had just left the apartment and he never saw him again, agents said.
Gills said he didn't report the incident, according to court records.
Agents told Gills that if Farmer was like a father to him, then he should honor Farmer by being truthful about what happened.
Gills breaks down, admits Farmer died, agents say
Agents said Gills began to cry and admitted Farmer had been dead for many years.
When agents asked when Farmer actually died, Gills responded that it was right after his own mother died in early 2005, according to authorities. Officials said they were living in the 30000 block of Hanover Boulevard in Westland at the time.
Gills told officials he went to take a shower at the home and when he got out, Farmer was no longer breathing. He said he was so upset that he went for a walk around the block, according to officials.
Gills said he returned to the home and Farmer's body was gone, court records show.
He said he didn't report the death because he wanted to continue receiving Farmer's retirement benefits, according to authorities.
Cousin blamed for moving body
Officials asked Gills what had happened to the body, and Gills said his cousin, David Fields, had thrown it in the ditch behind the house.
He said Fields had been living with them at the time of Farmer's death, officials said.
When agents asked about Fields, Gills told them his cousin had died of an overdose, according to authorities.
Agents later learned Fields is living in Louisville, Kentucky, court records show.
Gills says body might be in well at abandoned farmhouse
Officials asked Gills if he had buried Farmer in a shallow grave. He told them there was an old, abandoned farmhouse behind the house on Hanover Boulevard, officials said.
Gills said there was a well on the farmhouse property and that Farmer's body might have been inside the well, according to court records.
Agents said Gills believed the well had been filled or covered up with concrete.
Recoreds show Farmer began receiving annuity payments of more than $3,000 into the Comerica Bank checking account around November 1999.
Gills became a joint account holder over the Comerica Bank checking account around April 13, 2004, officials said.
Bank records show Gills co-mingled his personal funds with Farmer's annuity payments as far back as 2007 and thereafter made regular, large withdrawals from the account.
Gills made monthly withdrawals of the payments in Farmer's name from April 2004 through October 2018, according to federal officials. He admitted during his Feb. 14, 2019, interview that he knew he wasn't entitled to Farmer's money, agents said.
In the criminal complaint, Gills is accused of committing theft of government funds, mail fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and making false statements.
Officials said he took about $566,547 deposited for Farmer for his own personal gain over the last 14 years.
He is accused of knowingly using Farmer's forged information as part of a fraud scheme.
Gills made false statements while filling out Farmer's forms and while speaking with federal agents on several occasions, according to authorities.