We have the privilege to live in a democratic country where we’ve created a justice system to deliver proper punishment when needed. But how do we define “proper” punishment? Perhaps we should just flip a coin: heads for five years, tails for 10 years. According to an article from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Social Security Administration (SSA), one Washington, DC man may receive a light sentence for a hefty profit that he bilked from the federal government.
Agencies are coming down on individuals who take advantage of a benefit system intended to help those really in need. Combined efforts from the OIG for SSA and the OIG for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) brought justice to a DC fraudster who misused more than $340,000 in government funds. (Ok, how many years are we talking?) The fraudster faces a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison; however, under federal sentencing guidelines he will likely face 18 to 24 months of incarceration. (Ok, now how did we go from 10 years to 18 months?) What crime in particular enabled the fraudster to reap the benefits of over $300k?
After pleading guilty to theft of government funds, the fraudster admitted he received and negotiated U.S. Treasury checks for retirement and annuity benefits addressed to his mother, who passed away in February 1999. Instead of reporting the death to the SSA and OPM, the man continued to cash in on the checks from March 1999 to June 2012. Investigations revealed the man forged his mother’s signature when depositing some of the checks; on others, he used his own signature and deposited the money into a joint bank account he held with his mother. The fraudster admitted he stole $255,038 in Social Security retirement and $91,484 in OPM annuity benefits, totaling $346,522. (Wow, only 18-24 months for over $300k; where are the SSA applications?!)
This crime seems simple enough, so I’m willing to bet this is a popular type of fraud. What are the SSA and OPM doing to stop these crimes? Because 18-24 months isn’t scaring these fraudsters.