Each year, fraudulent benefit claims cost the Social Security Administration (SSA) millions of dollars in overpayments. Accepting benefits for a person who is deceased is one of the most common ways the program is defrauded. Today’s Fraud of the Day, from the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Office of Investigations, looks at one such case of an elderly man who is on his way to the slammer for collecting Social Security benefits paid on behalf of his mother, who died in 1984.
The SSA realized there might be a problem in December 2010 when the fraudster’s mother’s date of birth, which was listed on Social Security records, indicated that she would have been more than 104 years old. An investigation was opened, and the State of Texas provided a death certificate confirming the woman had died in November 1984. (This was a state public record, so how was it missed?)
According to the SSA, an 81-year-old man (Wow, he’s an old fraudster) from Montgomery County, Texas, accepted the guilty plea for theft of government property (his momma’s Social Security benefits). Lucky for him, the judge handed down a reduced sentence of 18 months due to the man’s age and health issues, and he will serve a term of three years of supervised release after his prison term is up. The fraudster also owes the government more than $243,000 in restitution. It appears that he received his mother’s Social Security benefits for more than a quarter of a century by electronic deposit into a joint bank account where he was the only other person authorized to sign on the account.
Fraud is committed by the young and the old alike. The crime doesn’t discriminate based on age and neither does the government when prosecuting Social Security fraud. It’s a felony to collect benefits under another individual’s Social Security Number, period. (What would momma say?)