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22 charged with illegally collecting Social Security
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal grand juries in Los Angeles have indicted 22 people, including a sheriff’s deputy, on charges of illegally obtaining Social Security cash benefits, the U.S. attorney’s office announced Monday.
The indictments were returned last week and announced after the arrest of a defendant who is an employee of the Social Security Administration.
The defendants caused a cumulative loss of $2.6 million, the U.S. attorney’s office said, with most of the schemes involving taking Social Security benefits intended for a family member who had died.
“This series of cases illustrates our commitment to ... protect the integrity of an important program aimed at helping senior citizens and the most vulnerable in our society,” U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in a statement.
The defendants include a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy and a person accused of illegally receiving more than $400,000.
Each defendant is charged with theft of government property, which is punishable by up to five years in federal prison. Some defendants face additional charges such as aggravated identity theft.
One scheme involved diverting benefits while making it appear funds were going to actual beneficiaries. One of those beneficiaries was deceased.
Another case alleges theft of retirement insurance benefits from a deceased father, theft of spousal benefits intended for a former stepmother, use of the late father’s debit card and the signature of the ex-stepmother.
Most of the defendants are from Southern California. One is a Utah resident and another currently lives in Mexico, the U.S. attorney’s office said. Most will be sent a summons to appear for arraignments in May.