Guess the saying “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” aptly applies to one Seattle family. A report by the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Social Security Administration outlines the crimes of a family of four that have been claiming disability and caregiver fraud for over thirty-one years. The report claims that they schemed and defrauded the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and the federal government out of $350,000.
It all started back in 1979 when the father of the family received a second Social Security Number and used this new identity to apply for disability. By 1983, the father and mother “applied for disability on behalf of their son” and “both men claimed to be developmentally disabled and unable to work or care for themselves.” However, the father “owned and operated a used car lot” and the son “was also in the business of buying and selling cars.” According to the report, the mother was in on the scheme, making “numerous false statements to Social Security and evaluators” and serving as the payee for both men – in other words…she allegedly cashed the checks. The daughter also was allegedly in on the act. The report says she “applied to be the representative payee of a person named L.M., who also falsely claimed to be disabled.” But, according to the report, the daughter didn’t stop there: she claimed that she provided home daily care to an elderly family member who resided 150 miles away. (Family fraud programs are the best. I can only imagine the dinner conversation.)
These and other disability cases are being investigated by (1) the Social Security Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG) Cooperative Disabilities Investigation Unit (2) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG), with assistance from (3) the Washington State Patrol, (4) the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Office of Fraud and Accountability, and (5) the Washington State Department of Licensing Fraud Investigation Unit. (I applaud the proactive investigations, but five different investigation units? We’ve got to get as streamlined as the fraudsters in order to beat them.) The four are due to be sentenced in June 2012. But how did they defraud so many for so long? Here’s the good news: technology has changed since 1979. Now, agencies can identify fraudsters through public records and data analytics technology. Sounds like a good tool for disability investigations.