Steal $177K and Get Four Months in Prison?

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Lots of times, we read about cases of fraud and wonder about the back story. How did the individual decide to commit the fraud? Where did he or she come up with the idea? And, what made the defendant move forward and implement the fraud? Today’s Fraud of the Day from a Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Office of Inspector General article traces a case of Social Security fraud back to its early beginnings in a fake marriage.

According to the article, the defendant’s story began 16 years ago when her aunt paid her $6,000 to marry a cousin so he could become a citizen. The couple never lived together and divorced in 2003. (Marriage fraud? Maybe a new category?) But that was only the beginning. (Cue the scary music.)

The cousin (a.k.a. the ex-husband) died in a car crash about a year after the divorce, and the defendant ”applied for Social Security benefits, stating that her ex-husband was the father of two of her children.” She received more than $1,500 a month for eight years, totaling $177,367.

The defendant pleaded guilty to ”theft of government money” in October. Prosecutors argued for a sentence of one year to 18 months, consistent with the federal sentencing guidelines, while her defense attorney tried to make a case for house arrest. (HOUSE ARREST? This guy is full of it! Give him a week in jail just for being stupid.) Ultimately, the judge sentenced her to a term of four months in prison. (Really? Can I get that deal?) She also will have to make restitution payments of whichever is greater: $200 per month or 25 percent of her net income. (At $200 per month, it will take her 73 YEARS to pay it back, and that’s WITHOUT INTEREST!)

Sometimes fraud doesn’t seem to make sense. This one makes perfect sense. It started with a big lie and became an even bigger lie that took the taxpayers for over $177,000. If someone hadn’t tipped off the authorities, she may never have been caught. There’s no telling how much she could have stolen. It’s bad enough that she ripped off the taxpayers, but her fraudulent actions paint all benefits recipients with the same brush and give those who desperately need the benefits a bad name. So, here’s my question of the day: without the tipster, what could have been done to catch our fraudster?

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Virginia Woman Sentenced to Four Months in Prison for Social Security Fraud,” published by the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General on March 7, 2013.

NORFOLK — Sixteen years ago, Jennifer Zamora’s aunt offered her $6,000 to marry

her Filipino cousin so that he could become a citizen here. They never lived as husband and wife and divorced in 2003, according to court documents.

But the deception did not end there.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.