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Man Cashes in on Deceased's Social Security Checks

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Social Security Office
Social Security Office

Police arrest man after he allegedly buried his mother and sister in the backyard and continued to cash Social Security checks

By Amy Simonson and Alaa Elassar, CNN

Updated 8:48 PM EDT, Sat April 9, 2022

A man has been arrested and charged in connection with the burial of both his mother and sister inside plastic containers in the backyard of their suburban Chicago home, according to police.

Michael Lelko, 45, has been charged with two felony counts of concealment of death/moving body, according to court documents filed in the Cook County Circuit Court.

Lelko was not charged with the deaths of his mother, Jean Lelko, and sister, Jennifer Lelko, because the medical examiner’s office could not determine the cause of death due to the deterioration of the bodies, Lyons Police Chief Thomas Herion told CNN.

Lelko’s brother, John Lelko, was also taken into custody but was not formally charged and was later released.

The medical examiner did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Herion said federal law enforcement is looking into whether criminal charges are warranted, because the mother’s Social Security checks were cashed for some period after her death.

Herion said the amount at issue is about $75,000 to $80,000. It is unclear if the brothers have retained an attorney.

Police conducted a well-being check visit at the Lelkos’ house on August 26, 2021, because water hadn’t been used in the home in the past year, a court document states.

After speaking with neighbors at the time, the police happened upon Michael Lelko walking down the street, according to court documents.

Lelko told police that they hadn’t had running water in a year and that his brother had a heart condition, according to Herion.

Officers tried to enter the premises after Lelko gave them permission, but soon discovered the only way in and out was by crawling through a window, Herion said.

“Officers attempted to enter the residence, but entranceways were almost completely blocked with boxes and detritus,” court documents said. “Due to deplorable condition of the residence, officers were only able to get inside the residence through a window.”

“The doors were barricaded with debris,” Herion said. “I could see fleas and bugs and piles from floor to ceiling, and I can smell urine and feces.”

Herion said police eventually entered the house wearing biohazard suits.

After calling in medical attention for Lelko’s brother John, Herion asked Michael where his mother and sister were.

While in the ambulance, Lelko told officers that he buried his mother in the backyard when she passed in 2015, according to court documents.

Michael Lelko continued to deposit his mother’s Social Security checks and two surveillance videos from Citi Bank show him making withdrawals from his mother’s account, according to court documents.

“He said, ‘We buried my mom in the backyard,’ and when I asked him how his sister is doing, he said, ‘In 2019, she came down with Covid, she got sick and she died,’” Herion said. The first confirmed death from Covid-19 in the US was in February 2020.

He then told Herion that his sister was also buried in the backyard.

After Lelko showed police on August 26 where the bodies were buried, Lyons Police Department officers and Cook County Medical Examiners went to the location and “unearthed 2 large plastic containers,” court documents say.

“Human remains were found in each of the plastic containers, and DNA analysis was conducted,” according to the documents.

Michael Lelko was released on bond and placed on electronic monitoring, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said.


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