BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — A woman who was convicted of murdering her husband 30 years ago has been charged with illegally collecting his social security benefits for nearly a decade after her release from prison.
Opal Elaine Tillman, 71, of Morris, Alabama, came under investigation following her arrest in 2015 for stealing over $60,000 from an elderly couple she worked for as a housekeeper. She pleaded guilty in that case last month.
Tillman was imprisoned from 1988 until 1996 for killing her husband, Walter Tillman, federal prosecutors said. The month after he died in 1987, prosecutors say Opal Tillman applied to receive his social security benefits.
Shortly after she was convicted, she was informed by the social security administration that she was no longer eligible to receive the payments as “a person who has been convicted of the felonious and intentional homicide of a wage earner cannot be entitled to monthly benefits.”
But in 2009, prosecutors say Tillman applied once again to receive the payments and was inadvertently approved. She continued to receive the payments until 2016 — a total of $168,000, prosecutors said.
Tillman is currently incarcerated for stealing money from the elderly couple she worked for from 2011 until 2015. Local authorities say Tillman started helping the couple with their finances as the 87-year-old wife’s health declined, but began helping herself to their savings.
The scam continued until relatives noticed several suspicious transactions from the couple’s bank account.
“I think there is a special place for people that take advantage of our senior citizens, most especially those placed in a position of trust,” Jefferson County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Randy Christian said at the time.