Reaching any milestone of 50 years is usually a cause for celebration!  Whether you are celebrating a 50th birthday or 50 years of successful marriage, it’s time to pop the champagne and propose a toast to five wonderful decades.  One Ohio woman won’t be celebrating this milestone the same way in the future. According to an article on the website of the Office of the Inspector General, Social Security Administration’s (SSA), the 50 identities she stole may lead her to a party of one in prison.

Let’s lift a glass in celebration to the SSA, for tracking down just one of the fraudsters responsible for committing unemployment fraud. (Cheers!) A Whitehall resident recently pleaded guilty to using 50 identities in her scam to file phony unemployment benefit claims.  She filed claims in Alaska, Minnesota, Montana, Arizona, Utah, Ohio, Colorado and Pennyslvania between February 2009 and December 2012, netting nearly $80,000. (Nice scam – three years and eight states.  Bonus points for such a reaching fraud.) The case is a product of cooperative efforts from the Department of Labor and the SSA.

According to the investigations, the woman played her fraud much like that of others cashing in on benefits.  She obtained 50 personal identities, using them to file for unemployment benefits across the eight states.  Once she received the check in the mail, she would use the identities to open bank accounts online, deposit the money and then use ATMs to retrieve the cash. (Sounds simple enough!) As if lying for unemployment benefits isn’t bad enough, the fraudster collected Social Security benefits in her own name.  Court documents reveal that earnings made through identity theft scam were not reported to the SSA. (So she scammed eight states AND collected Social Security benefits.  Sounds like a bit of “boundary blindness” to me.  Isn’t it time agencies had a little more visibility into the benefits they are providing?  We give out hundreds of billions of dollars, and we can’t even track it across programs.) The woman faces over two decades of jail time if convicted.

I guess 50 isn’t a celebration for everything.  I don’t think that I’d be dancing with joy after the federal government discovered my fraud scam targeting almost a fifth of our 50 states.  No matter what her sentences, she will forever remember the bad luck associated with the number 50.

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