Nigerian Woman Sentenced in Social Security Fraud Case

Nigerian Woman Sentenced in Social Security Fraud Case

The latest high-profile case involving Social Security fraud is that of a Nigerian woman who has pled guilty to stealing nearly $1 million. 

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the woman’s scheme entailed ripping off both the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), through “the false filing of thousands of online applications for SSA retirement benefits and FEMA disaster benefits using stolen personal information.” 

According to the DOJ’s press release, the woman and her husband participated in a “money-laundering scheme” in which the fraudsters picked people who were eligible for Social Security benefits but had not yet applied for them. The victims of the fraud were well-known people—including “a movie director, an award-winning journalist, the daughter of a legendary movie director, and a highly esteemed academic”—although none of those people were named in the document. The two had also engaged in “marriage fraud” in what was described as “an unsuccessful attempt to become U.S. citizens.” 

The funds were then directed towards a Green Dot debit card, with the funds later routed towards Nevada Bridge TV, a company owned by the defendant’s husband, as well as two other businesses. 

The woman received two years and six months in prison and was also ordered to make restitution of $949,616.40. She faces likely deportation at the end of her sentence. The case was first brought last summer, and the woman had pled guilty in December. Per the News & Observer, the case against her husband is ongoing, although he appears to have fled the country. 

“This sentence holds [the woman] accountable for her role in this complex conspiracy to defraud the Social Security Administration, alone, of nearly seven hundred thousand dollars. She stole the personal information of innocent people and used it to defraud the SSA by abusing its online services,” Gail S. Ennis, inspector general for the Social Security Administration, said in the announcement.

“My office will continue to uphold the integrity of the SSA’s online services and programs that so many Americans rely on. I thank the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General, Homeland Security Investigations, and other law enforcement agencies for joining us in this comprehensive investigation. I also thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecuting this case,” Ennis said.

“Anyone with malicious intent can cause widespread damage to victims, and in this case, the defendant orchestrated an identity theft spree that resulted in the defrauding of two agencies that provide substantial assistance to individuals in need,”  Tommy D. Coke, the inspector in charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Atlanta Division, said in the release. “This scheme highlights the importance of national collaboration when it comes to combatting identity theft, and I thank our law enforcement partners for their essential assistance with this investigation.”

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters