Belchertown man gets prison for benefits fraud


Staff Writer

Published: 01-08-2024 4:57 PM

SPRINGFIELD — A Belchertown man who stole more than $114,000 in disability benefits over 16 years was sentenced last week in federal court to 10 months in prison and three years of supervised release.

Kenneth Pontz, 59, was previously convicted in Hampshire Superior Court in August 2017 of embezzling approximately $46,000 from Sportshaven Trailer Park Tenant Association in Belchertown while acting as treasurer.

The government determined that he continued to defraud the Social Security Administration while he was on probation in the Superior Court case.

U.S. District Judge Mark G. Mastroianni imposed a lesser sentence than the 18-month term sought by prosecutors. Restitution and forfeiture will be determined at a hearing on March 5, the U.S. attorney’s office stated.

After being arrested and charged in June 2022, Pontz was convicted in August 2023 by a federal jury of one count of theft of public funds after a four-day trial.

Over 16 years, prosecutors said, Pontz repeatedly made false statements to the Social Security Administration to obtain disability benefits to which he was not entitled.

Pontz concealed the fact that he lived with his wife, whose income would have been used in calculating his monthly benefit payment for the needs-based program.

He further concealed his living arrangements by reporting that he lived at a vacant lot, rather than the residence he shared with his wife. Additionally, Pontz provided a fraudulent rent receipt that overstated his actual rent by $575 per month.

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He was charged with, and convicted of, stealing approximately $49,000 over six years. However, the U.S. attorney’s office said it developed evidence at trial — and Pontz admitted — that his theft was more extensive and amounted to a much larger sum.

His sentencing Thursday was based on the larger amount, $114,000, but restitution will be based on the more limited loss.