A Chico man has been charged with forgery and identity theft after prosecutors determined he had been impersonating his dead roommate in order to collect his U.S. Navy retirement benefit checks.

As KTVU reports, 57-year-old Darren Pirtle was charged Monday in Butte County after authorities visited his home last week and found him living with the dead body of his onetime roommate, 64-year-old Kevin Olson. Pirtle is expected to enter a plea on Thursday.

Pirtle isn't being charged — at least yet — in Olson's death, but it seems that Pirtle has been lying to Olson's family for years about his whereabouts and wellbeing.

According to the Associated Presss, via District Attorney Mike Ramsey, Pirtle had given various excuses for why family members could not reach Olson, and a missing persons investigation was finally initiated in August. Pirtle also allegedly told a Chico police officer that Olson was "out of town."

When investigators entered the home that the two men had shared, which was apparently owned by Olson, they found Olson's remains in a back bedroom.

The DA's office says that Pirtle began forging Olson's signature on checks in July 2019, but friends and family say they have not seen Olson since October 2018. Investigators believe that Olson likely died in late 2018, and an autopsy will determine his cause of death — though can you really perform a full autopsy on a four-year-old decomposed corpse?

Over the past four years, Olson's mortgage had apparently continued to be paid, likely by direct debit. And retirement checks had been getting direct-deposited into an account belonging to Olson at the Navy Federal Credit Union. Pirtle allegedly had cashed some 50 checks in Olson's name since 2019.

This follows on a story from last month in which a Petaluma woman was found to have been living with the corpse of her dead mother for at least a year. And there was a similarly gruesome tale from Las Vegas last year in which a group of squatters found a dead woman in an otherwise empty house, buried her in the backyard, and continued living there.

Photo: Giorgio Trovato