Brian Unger, a former Long Branch Councilman who during his colorful career in Monmouth County politics ran for Mayor of Long Branch, Freeholder and State Senate, admitted in U.S. District Court that he collected over $82,000 of Social Security benefits paid to his wife for four years after she died.
Unger was released on an unsecured bond of $50,000 after pleading guilty before U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson in Trenton. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced on January 18, 2017.
In 2008, Unger’s wife applied to the Social Security Administration (SSA) for Disability Insurance Benefits due to illness which prevented her from working. In March 2008, the SSA determined that Unger’s wife was eligible for the program and began to electronically deposit money her bank account. She died in June 2009, but Unger failed to notify the SSA.
The SSA continued to issue direct deposits of benefit payments into Unger’s wife’s bank account through September 2013. Between June 2009 and October 2013, Unger accessed his deceased wife’s bank account on multiple occasions and used the funds deposited by the SSA on her behalf for his own personal expenses. He admitted that he took $82,854 in SSA benefits that had been improperly distributed to his deceased wife. He also admitted that he did not inform the SSA of his wife’s death because he wanted to continue to collect her disability benefits, which had been converted to Retirement Insurance Benefits in approximately May of 2013, when she would have turned 65, because he knew that informing the SSA of her death would have stopped the flow of those benefits.
Unger, 64, currently resides in Rincon, Puerto Rico where he is an Assistant Professor at the University of Puerto Rico, according to his facebook page.
In 2005 Unger was a third party candidate for Monmouth County Freeholder. The Asbury Park Press endorsed Unger and encouraged their readers to “bullet vote” for him, rather than vote for Republicans William Barham and Lillian Burry or Democrats Barbara McMorrow and Rebecca Aaronson. Thanks to the APP endorsement, Unger received over 18,000 votes. Barham and Burry beat McMorrow and Aaronson by less than 2,000 votes.