Coconut Grove Pastor Accused of Illegally Profiting from Dead Person's Social Security

Coconut Grove Pastor Accused of Illegally Profiting from Dead Person’s Social Security

Federal criminal charges have been brought against a pastor in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood after it was discovered by investigators that he had been collecting Social Security payments for a deceased person for over ten years.

The 57-year-old Michael Gene Bryant is accused of stealing from the government and lying to a federal agency. The Greater Sweetfield Missionary Baptist Church, situated at 3585 Plaza St., is led by him as pastor.

A federal indictment states that Bryant was appointed as the representative payee for an individual known as “H. L. G.” in court records in 1996.

Authorities claim that although “H. L. G.” passed away on October 17, 2012, Bryant failed to notify Social Security and continued to get benefits until this January. He falsified, according to the prosecution, on official records to indicate that the beneficiary still resided with him.

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The amount of money that officials are accused Bryant of collecting is not disclosed in the filings. A former parishioner expressed her “shock” and “disbelief” at the accusations.

Charolette Smith, who lives directly next to the church, remarked, “That is like unbelievable to me. You go there to hear the word. Coming from a pastor, it’s like, what are you doing?”

He might spend up to twenty years in prison.