A onetime Long Branch resident who moved to Puerto Rico awaits a January sentencing date, for collecting his wife's Social Security payments for four years after she died.

Blank Social Security checks (William Thomas Cain, Getty Images)

In a Trenton federal courtroom, Brian Unger, 64, of Rincon,PR, pleaded guilty to one count of theft of government money, according to the office of New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) deposited $82,854 in his late wife's bank account between June 2009 and October 2013, authorities said. Unger reportedly told the court that he didn't report her death because he knew that the payments would stop.

He risks a maximum 10-year prison sentence and a fine as high as $250,000.

According to investigators, Unger's wife applied to SSA for disability benefits in 2008, and was approved in March of that year. Payments were deposited electronically in her bank account.

Unger neglected to notify SSA when she died in June 2009, authorities said, and used the accrued payments for his own expenses through October 2013. Her disability payments were converted to retirement benefits in May 2013, when she would have turned 65.

Unger is represented by attorney Charles Uliano of West Long Branch. The State's case is led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark McCarren.

Investigations were organized by Special Agent in Charge John F. Grasso of the SSA Office of Inspector General.

Charges are accusations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless, and until, found guilty in a court of law.

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