FRESNO, Calif. — United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that Louisa Recatune, aka Louisa Garcia, 45, of Bakersfield, was arrested today after a federal grand jury returned an indictment on April 19, 2012, charging her with theft of government property. Recatune is scheduled to be arraigned today at 2:30 p.m. before United States Magistrate Judge Jennifer Thurston in Bakersfield.
According to the indictment, between January 2004 and August 2011, Recatune received Social Security survivor benefits from a legitimate social security recipient who had died on December 1, 2003. According to the indictment, Recatune married Robert Navejas on September 4, 2002. At the time of the marriage, she had children unrelated to Navejas. Recatune and Navejas also had no biological children while together.
In January 2003, as alleged in the indictment, Recatune filed an application for auxiliary benefits on Navejas’s SSA record. Recatune sought benefits for herself and her children. Recatune’s application was denied, however, because she had not been married to Navejas for long enough. In March 2003, just roughly two months later, Recatune filed paperwork in Kern County Superior Court to end the marriage with Navejas, and in November 2003, Recatune obtained an annulment, effectively terminating the marriage as though it never existed.
According to the indictment, on December 1, 2003, Navejas died at his residence in Kern County. On January 14, 2004, following Navejas’s death, Recatune filed for survivor benefits for her and her children under Navejas’s record, never informing SSA that the marriage was annulled. SSA approved her application and awarded her benefits. Despite her lack of entitlement, Recatune continued to receive the funds and used them for her personal use. During this time, Recatune unlawfully received more than $239,000.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorney Jeremy R. Jehangiri is prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Recatune faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any actual sentence, however, will be determined after a conviction and at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
The charges are only allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.