In court filings, John W. Jackson Jr.’s attorney offers a respectable picture of the man.
Jackson, now a Decatur resident, came home after 10 years in the Army with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star from Vietnam. He went on with his life, earning a degree from the University of Maryland and working. He got married, had three children who’ve grown up to be successful, not unlike their father who has held down steady jobs for the past 40 years.
But Jackson had a secret.
On Oct. 27, 1980, his elderly father, John W. Jackson Sr., died. The son didn’t tell the government.
The Social Security checks kept coming into a bank account controlled by the son.
“When initially questioned in 2015 by Social Security agents about his father’s whereabouts, Jackson told the agents his father had run away with a younger woman a year prior and he did not know where his father was,” the U.S. Attorney’s Atlanta office said in a news release detailing the case this week.
Agents talked to other family and found out when the man actually died. An error in the father’s Social Security number on burial documents may have played a part in the government not discovering the death.
Confronted by agents, Jackson came clean.
Now 70 years old, he agreed to turn over two insurance policies worth a total of $25,000 to the government and plead guilty.
“Mr. Jackson feels great shame and wants to make things right,” his attorney, Brian Mendelsohn, wrote in a filing detailing Jackson’s otherwise crime-free life, asking for a merciful sentence. “Clearly, given Mr. Jackson’s age and history, he poses no risk to the public and is not likely to reoffend.”
Mendelsohn said Jackson is in relatively good health and still hasn’t retired. He hopes to continue working in the years he has left so he can pay back the government.
U.S. Attorney John Horn said Jackson stole taxpayer money “meant to sustain those who have paid into the system, and expect to have something in retirement.”
Jackson was sentenced this week to 10 months in federal prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. He was ordered to repay every cent.
He’s being allowed to surrender after Jan. 3, according to court records.
A message left at his home wasn’t returned Friday.