A Chicago Transit Authority retirement specialist has been indicted on federal charges alleging she used phony beneficiary information for dozens of recently deceased retirees to steal more than $350,000 from the agency’s pension system.
Ayanna Nesbitt, 50, of Chicago was charged in an indictment made public Friday with five counts of wire fraud. An arraignment was set for Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly.
According to the charges, Nesbitt created and obtained approval for fraudulent requests to make death-benefit payments and refund pension contributions to purported beneficiaries of CTA retirees and other eligible members of the pension plan.
Nesbitt then directed the funds into bank accounts she controlled as well as other accounts held by family members or associates, then used the money for personal expenses for herself and others, the charges alleged.
In all, between March 2019 and September 2021, Nesbitt obtained approval for 43 false death-benefit or pension-refund requests totaling $357,000, according to the indictment.
Chicago Tribune editors’ top story picks, delivered to your inbox each afternoon.
Nesbitt’s attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.
According to Nesbitt’s LinkedIn profile, she has worked as a CTA retirement specialist for 17 years. She also was a CTA bus operator from 1996 to 2004, according to the profile.
In 2016, Nesbitt and the then-head of the CTA retirement plan were sued in U.S. District Court by a woman who claimed that they had defrauded her of retirement payments she was due after her husband’s 2014 death.
Lawyers for the retirement plan disputed the allegation, writing in a motion to dismiss that documents “clearly and unequivocally” showed the woman’s husband had chosen to accept all of his retirement benefits during his lifetime, with no lump payment going to his beneficiaries in the event of his death.
U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras dismissed the suit in June 2016 on the grounds that it lacked federal jurisdiction, records show.
The CTA is a separate entity from the retirement plan. Representatives of the plan were not immediately available for comment.