LAWFUEL – Law News Network – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Roland H. Maye, Special Agent in Charge, Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General, William T. Sims, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, and Henry Gutierrez, Inspector in Charge, Miami Division, U. S. Postal Inspection Service, announced the unsealing of twenty five separate fraud indictments against thirty-four defendants. The defendants are charged with conspiring to defraud the Social Security Administration and with multiple counts of theft of government funds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 286 and 641, respectively. One defendant, Carlos Barker, an employee of the Florida office of Disability Determination Services (“DDS”), is additionally charged with multiple counts of exceeding his authorized workplace computer access, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1030(a)(2)(B). Collectively, the defendants defrauded Social Security and the taxpayers of over $2,000,000 in disability benefits.
The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) provides disability benefits to individuals, or eligible family members, who cannot work due to a medical condition expected to last at least one year, or which will result in death. Individuals can apply for disability benefits either on-line or by calling the toll-free number for a personal appointment. SSA reviews the application to confirm that the applicant’s work history qualifies him/her for benefits. The application is then sent to the DDS office in the state where the individual applicant resides. DDS is a state agency subcontracted by SSA to perform disability determinations and confirm eligibility.
According to the Indictment, defendant Carlos Barker was employed by DDS, and was responsible for determining disability eligibility. In essence, the defendants conspired to obtain Social Security disability benefits by preparing and filing fraudulent applications, which included false supporting medical documentation in the names of fictitious physicians or actual physicians who had never examined the named beneficiaries. More specifically, the Indictments allege that the defendants used a company, called Benefits Consultants of Florida (“BCF”), located at 30620 SW 154th Avenue, Miami, FL 33088, to prepare and submit false applications for SSI disability benefits. Defendant Migdalia Interian was the registered agent/director of BCF, and defendant Yoanka Interian was the president of BCF.
According to the charges, various defendants recruited individuals who would agree to submit false applications and supporting medical documents to the SSA to fraudulently qualify the applicants for disability benefits. In exchange for their services in preparing and submitting the false applications, defendants Carlos Barker, Francisco Castro, Migdalia Interian, and Yoanka Interian would keep the first Social Security benefit payment, known as the “retro check,” which would include retroactive payments from the time of the application. Thereafter, the named beneficiary would receive monthly disability payments from Social Security.
United States Attorney Acosta stated, “South Florida is home to among the most costly health care frauds in the nation. These types of cases are no exception. Here, a group of individuals stole nearly $2 million from taxpayers. Even worse, they stole benefits intended for those in need – those who are disabled or very ill. We cannot permit fraudsters to raid the social security fund at the expense of the taxpayers and other needy beneficiaries.”
Special Agent in Charge for the Social Security Administration Roland Maye said, “The quick response agents of the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General investigating this fraud scheme, helped to prevent the disbursement of a significant number of tax dollars to undeserving subjects, and should send a message to those who wish to defraud the Social Security fund.”
U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge William Sims, stated, ” This case illustrates the rich history and continued commitment of the Secret Service in working with our partners in federal and local law enforcement to help safeguard and preserve the integrity of government programs and funds and to enhance computer security.”
Postal Inspector in Charge Henry Gutierrez stated, “The successful outcome of this investigation clearly demonstrates that abuse of one of this nation’s most compassionate programs for the elderly and needy will not be tolerated. The Postal Inspection Service will continue to commit resources and pursue all who engage in these fraudulent activities.”
This investigation and prosecution was the direct result of the coordinated efforts of the Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General, with assistance from the United States Secret Service and the United States Postal Inspection Service. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Todd W. Mestepey and Scott Ray.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls . Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov/ or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov/ .