The Dominican Republic’s sandy shores are surrounded by the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, making it a popular tourist destination. The county, which has the second largest economy in the Caribbean, is dependent upon agriculture and service industries – tourism in particular – for revenue. Despite a fairly healthy economy, approximately 40 percent of the population lives at the poverty line. And, according to a Department of Justice press release, at least one Dominican man turned to crime to solve his problems, stealing a U.S. citizen’s Social Security number (SSN) to obtain government benefits.
The press release states that the man obtained personal identification information from a U.S. citizen who happened to be living in Puerto Rico, an island approximately 80 miles away from the Dominican Republic. He then used that information to apply for and receive Social Security Disability benefits. (Not cool – there are people who really need those benefits.)
The fraudster pleaded guilty to theft of money and aggravated identity theft. He faces a sentence of up to 12 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and three years of supervised release. And, after his sentence is complete, he will be deported back to the Dominican Republic.
Despite whether the fraudster lived in the Dominican Republic or the U.S. at the time of the crime, the economy has been difficult in both countries. Hard times can cause a person to commit a crime in order to survive. One thing this man can be sure of is that it will be awhile before he hears the sound of the lapping waves against the shoreline. The sound he will most likely hear in the near future will be his jail cell doors clanging shut.