Deemed a Fraudster

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51517785 - padlock and social security card - identity theft and identity protection concept

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a disability program governed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and designed to help vulnerable individuals who have demonstrated they have a financial need and a disability that prevents them from earning income. To qualify for SSI benefits, the applicant must meet a few key requirements. A Rumford, Maine man tried to qualify for SSI benefits by lying on his application about his living arrangements. This impacted income requirements and consequently, caused him to commit Social Security fraud.

The SSA has some explicit requirements when it comes to qualifying for government benefits based on income. Today, we’re going to focus on “deemed income.” Deemed income in this fraud case refers to the Maine man’s spouse, with whom he lived with at the time he submitted the false application for SSI benefits.

Here’s a quick tutorial on deemed income as it relates to SSI. The government considers members of a family to be a unit, where the members are financially responsible for one another when they live under the same roof. So, SSA deems that a portion of certain family members’ income and assets are available to support the SSI recipient. This is why the SSA requires applicants to provide proof of an applicant’s family income and resources. (Today’s fraudster claimed he lived alone so that his wife’s income would not count against his claim.)

According to court documents, the Rumford man had been receiving SSI since 1995. In addition, he collected Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for two years. He lied to state and federal administrators stating he lived alone and did not receive any assistance from anyone else. (Based on that lie, he was able to collect government benefits.)

The Rumford, Maine man was aware that he was lying about his living situation, but he proceeded to disobey program rules anyway. (Which as you know is a no-no. When you sign the benefits application, you are swearing that you are telling the truth.) Investigators found that the deceptive man actually lived with his wife for six years during that time that he received government benefits. At the time, his wife was receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. (He knew that her income would prevent him from qualifying for the SSI benefits. He was hoping no one would check up on him.)

The 59-year-old Rumford, Maine man pleaded guilty to Social Security fraud and theft of public money. When sentenced, he is facing up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a maximum of three years of supervised release. No matter what sentence is handed down, the fraudster from Maine has been officially deemed a criminal.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, Rumford man pleads guilty to Social Security fraud,” published by Press Herald on September 13, 2018.

A Rumford man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court Thursday to Social Security fraud and theft of public money, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Raymond J. Brenneis, 59, faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and up to three years of supervised release.

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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.