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There are many reasons why someone becomes an impersonator. For example, celebrity impersonators make fun of the personal lives of famous or political figures to make us laugh and keep us entertained. Others impersonate political or military figures to act as a decoy so personal protection can be ensured. (Then there’s the fraud angle.) Individuals often assume identities to carry out illegal schemes. A Mexican citizen committed multiple fraud offenses against the U.S. government by collecting about $350,000 in benefits for nearly four decades.

It all began in 1968, when today’s fraudster, a supposedly 66-year-old man, came to the U.S. illegally. (His defense attorney stated that the illegal alien’s father had been murdered and he was looking for a better life in the U.S. than what was available in his native Chihuahua, Mexico.) The Mexican citizen bought the birth certificate of a U.S. citizen while working as a seasonal farm worker. (There’s the first strike against him.)

The illegal alien then used the birth certificate to apply for and obtain a Social Security number and a California driver’s license. Approximately eight years later, he fell out of a second-story motel balcony and landed in a coma, lasting for more than a month. (Wow, that certainly paints a vivid picture. Legal or illegal, that must have really hurt.)

 After the tragic fall that left him permanently disabled, he used the identity he had assumed to apply for government disability benefits. (Another no-no. He was not entitled to those benefits because he was not who he said he was.) Federal, state and local agencies started paying out benefits, including nearly $250,000 from the Social Security Administration (SSA), plus more than $100,000 in MediCal benefits (California’s Medicaid program). After his social security benefits were terminated, he applied for and was approved to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits right up until the time he was arrested.

When another individual tried to commit identity theft fraud against the same identity that the illegal alien was using, investigators took notice. While law enforcement officials initially believed that the illegal alien was a legitimate U.S. citizen, after further review of the details, it was determined that he had prior convictions including four felonies and 17 misdemeanors. (While all non-violent offenses, that’s still a boat load of run-ins with the law.) And, let’s not forget to consider two prior deportations in 1994 and 2000. (That didn’t stop him for long. He soon returned to the U.S. and travelled back and forth between the country and Mexico using a U.S. passport under the stolen identity.)

The Mexican citizen was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison (one month of custody in prison for every year he lived in the U.S. with a stolen identity) for committing Social Security fraud, Medicaid fraud, SNAP fraud and for being in the U.S. illegally. The Department of Justice reports that he was also ordered to pay $360,908.85 in restitution to the SSA, the California Department of Health Care Services and the County of San Diego.

While the illegal alien’s defense attorney stated that the nearly four-decade long benefits scam was not malicious or well-planned, ironically, he slipped through the cracks and was able to stay one step ahead of the system. Thanks to innovations where government agencies can share data across jurisdictions, this man’s decades long scam against public assistance programs has been halted. (No matter who this fraudster really is, it’s a certainty that he won’t be able to find any impersonator who will want to do the time for his crime.)

 Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, Mexican citizen who stole government benefits for 37 years is sentenced to 37 months in prison,” published by San Diego Union Tribune on July 16, 2018.

A Mexican citizen with more than 40 aliases who admitted to stealing more than $350,000 in government benefits was sentenced Friday to 37 months in federal prison, equaling one month of custody for every year he lived in the U.S. with a stolen identity.

Federal prosecutors say Tijuana resident Andres Avelino Anduaga, 66, obtained a U.S. citizen’s birth certificate in 1980 — about 12 years after he first came to the country to work — and then used that identification to obtain a social security number and California driver’s license.

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