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Yardley Man Admits Stealing More Than $55,000 in Government Benefits From Daughter

January 8, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Marc Furber, 215.348.6339, mjfurber@buckscounty.org

A Yardley man awaiting trial on charges of sexually molesting a young girl pleaded guilty today in Bucks County Court to stealing more than $55,000 in Social Security benefits meant for his own daughter.

Harry Lawrence, 54, pleaded guilty to one count of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received. The crime is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison.

From February 2008 through February 2015, Lawrence received Social Security benefit payments totaling $58,680 as the representative payee for his daughter, who is now 15. All of the money, which was provided because of Lawrence’s physical inability to work and provide for his daughter, should have gone to support the child, who lived primarily elsewhere. Instead, he kept all but $2,830 of it for himself.

Lawrence appeared in court in a wheelchair. He told Bucks County Judge Rea B. Boylan, who accepted the plea, that he had recently undergone back surgery and suffered from a lower-leg condition known as drop foot.

Lawrence, who is divorced, should not have received any of the money intended for the child. In completing a government application for the benefits, he falsely claimed that he had primary custody of his daughter. Investigators found that a 2006 custody order out of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas had given primary custody to Lawrence’s ex-wife. The child resided with Lawrence only on weekends during the school year, specified days during the summer, and alternating holidays.

That arrangement did not change throughout the time that Lawrence received the Social Security payments. Each year, he would file annual reports in which he falsely stated that his daughter had lived with him throughout the entire year, and that all the payments he had received had been put toward the care and support of the child.

When confronted by investigators, Lawrence stated he believed that all of the money had belonged to him, said Marc J. Furber, chief of the arson / economic crimes unit, who prosecuted the case.

Lawrence has been held in the Bucks County Correctional Facility since his arrest Dec. 22 on charges of aggravated indecent assault of a child and six related felonies. Investigators allege that Lawrence sexually molested a young girl repeatedly in 2002 and 2003 at a day care center that his then-wife operated out of their home in Falls Township.

Judge Boylan agreed to postpone Lawrence’s sentencing for the theft conviction until after his preliminary hearing on the sex charges. The preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 23 before Magisterial District Judge Jan Vislosky.

Furber requested that, in light of the theft conviction, Boylan revoke Lawrence’s bail. The judge declined, but instead increased his bail from $25,000 unsecured to $100,000 cash.

The theft case was investigated by Bucks County Detective Eric Landamia and Special Agent Theresa M. Bray of the Social Security Administration / Office of the Inspector General.

Approved for release by David W. Heckler, District Attorney.

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