Keep Your Mouth Shut

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Overconfidence can sometimes result in boasting. (Fraudsters sometimes just can’t help themselves when it comes to bragging about their crime.) An article posted on StarTribune.com reveals the story of how a prideful restaurant owner’s exaggerated statements led to his arrest and eventual conviction for disability fraud.

The article details that the man ran a popular taco restaurant in western Michigan. Additional research discovered that he bragged to a local newspaper that he and his employees could serve up to 10,000 tacos on a typical day. He also stated that he worked very long hours during the week. (I guess it’s okay to brag about the efficiency of your business; however, this guy was not supposed to be working at all due to a prior back injury claim he had filed with the Social Security Administration (SSA).) As you might imagine, this bold statement – published in a very public manner – caused the SSA to take a closer look at the man’s disability situation.

Apparently, the former restaurant owner had been receiving disability benefits for eight years prior to opening his popular establishment. (As part of the application process, the man was aware that he was responsible for notifying the SSA if his health improved or if he went back to work. He kept his mouth shut and continued to collect the undeserved payments.)

Shortly after the newspaper article about his taco restaurant was published, authorities charged him with Social Security fraud. After another four years, plea negotiations broke down and the man fled to Mexico. (Unfortunately for the restaurant owner, his family mistakenly advised him to return to the United States stating there was no warrant for his arrest. Oops.)

After his arrest, the 66-year-old man pleaded guilty to disability fraud. (He admitted that he concealed his income so that he could continue to receive disability benefits which he supposedly spent on car payments and other personal expenses over 12 years.)

There are definitely times when boasting is tolerated, such as when you land a new job or your kid makes a perfect score on the SATs; however, in this case boastful comments led to public humiliation, plus a sentence and restitution to be determined. Let’s hope this man learned that when applying for government benefits, it’s important to tell the truth. Although he said nothing in the beginning about his ruse, he eventually had a hard time keeping his mouth shut.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Man Who Ran Popular Eatery Pleads Guilty to Disability Fraud,” posted on StarTribune.com on August 31, 2015.

A man who ran a popular restaurant in western Michigan while telling the government he couldn’t work because of a bad back has pleaded guilty to disability fraud.

Pablo Fierro was in federal court Monday.

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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.