Building a Tower of Lies

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It’s a fact of life that what is true today might be a lie tomorrow. But in a world of paperwork and bureaucracy, keeping up with what’s true and what isn’t in real-time is a difficult task. More often than not, there’s a lag between files being updated and funds being disbursed. Fraudsters are all-too-adept at exploiting this lag. That’s the story from this week’s Fraud of the Day, where a Social Security disability claim that was true one day (in 1999) was a lie another (in 2005)…and for more than 2,190 days after that.

The story comes from the Warren Reporter on NJ.com and involves a 44-year old construction superintendent who in 1999 filed an application for Social Security disability insurance benefits. The problem: a back injury. The condition: notify the Social Security Administration if the injury improves or if he works again. The story: in 2005 he begins work at as a construction superintendent for a high-rise office building. (Surely he didn’t just forget to call the Social Security Administration) The fraud: the defendant has his paychecks issued in the name of other individuals – including his wife – in order to keep receiving disability payments. (Is that a new wedding vow: love, honor and fraud?) The sum: $101,753 in fraud. The outcome: six months in prison, six months of home confinement and nearly $200,000 in fines.

The defendant pleaded guilty to Social Security disability fraud and structuring financial transactions, but the interesting fact is that he wasn’t strapped for cash: in fact, he was able to pay his hundred thousand dollar fines on the spot. (Is it just me, or does that tell you he should have been fined more?) So why did he do it? Because he could. Every system that relies heavily on self-reported data or that has a long lag between updates is vulnerable to fraud, even by those who aren’t actively trying to commit it. After all, even the tallest tower of lies can begin with the truth.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, ”Hackettstown construction superintendent sentenced to prison for Social Security disability scam” by the Warren Reporter published on NJ.com on June 6, 2012.

NEWARK—The former project superintendent on a Jersey City high-rise construction project was sentenced today to six months in prison and six months of home confinement for a fraudulent Social Security disability payment scheme, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced on Wednesday, June 6.

Pasquale Zinna, 44, of Hackettstown, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty to two counts of the indictment against him—Social Security disability fraud and structuring financial transactions.

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