Article from The Birmingham News here
A former Social Security Administration employee has pleaded guilty to taking private information of beneficiaries and using it to direct more than $4,200 in Social Security benefits to his accounts.
The employee, however, didn't stop his efforts to illegally obtain information about Social Security beneficiaries after being confronted by investigators last year, according to a plea deal in the case.
Alex Jamane Flowers, 33, of Fairfield, pleaded guilty to the charges in a hearing Wednesday afternoon before U.S. District Court Judge Madeline Haikala.
Flowers pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, one count of theft of government property, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
The identity theft charge carries a mandatory two-year sentence and the sentences on the other charges must run consecutive to that. The wire fraud charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and the theft charge a sentence of up to 10 years.
Under the terms of a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office filed this week, prosecutors will drop seven other charges against Flowers.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamarra Matthews Johnson and Flower's attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Rick Burgess, both declined comment after Wednesday's hearing.
The indictment against Flowers states that the crimes happened between May 2013 and July 2013 when Flowers was a claims representative in the Social Security Administration's Birmingham office.
As a claims representative, Flowers' duties included, but were not limited to, obtaining, clarifying and verifying information which will be used to analyze claims and make decisions regarding entitlement to benefits, according to the statement. His job gave him access to Social Security Administration databases, including the National Computer Center, which houses records for Social Security beneficiaries, according to court documents.
Flowers used his access to accounts and identifying information of beneficiaries, including Social Security numbers, to cause the administration to issue payments to claimants and beneficiaries, and directed each payment into accounts that he controlled at Republic Bank of Chicago and Regions Bank, according to court documents.
He successfully received $4,243 and attempted to get thousands more before being detected, according to his plea agreement.
After being confronted, Flowers admitted to Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General investigators in a written statement on June 27, 2013 that he needed the money for his child's mother and admitted his wrongdoing and apologized for his mistake, according to the plea agreement. But investigators later learned that Flowers had contacted a fellow Social Security employee in July 2013 trying to obtain information about two other Social Security beneficiaries, according to the agreement.
The co-worker located in Tulsa, Okla., alerted the Social Security Administration after realizing Flowers was actually on administrative leave, according to the plea agreement. Flowers later resigned.