From the U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Illinois:
CHICAGO — A former benefits authorizer at the Social Security Administration in Chicago was sentenced today to five years in federal prison for authorizing more than $1.9 million in fraudulent benefits.
JAYSON CRUZ, 41, who worked at the SSA’s Great Lakes Program Service Center in Chicago, authorized the fraudulent payments from 2009 to 2013 to more than 150 recipients. In exchange, the recipients kicked back approximately half of the fraudulent payments to Cruz or to others whom Cruz had recruited into the scheme. As a result of his fraud scheme, Cruz caused the SSA to pay approximately $1,908,290 in fraudulent benefits.
Cruz used the proceeds of the fraud to, among other things, purchase his home in the South Chicago neighborhood of Chicago, shop at Gucci, Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, and travel to the National Basketball Association’s All-Star Game and the Black Entertainment Television awards show.
Cruz pleaded guilty last year to one count of wire fraud. U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Kendall imposed the 60-month sentence in federal court in Chicago.
The sentence was announced by Joel R. Levin, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Tracey Thanos, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General.
“Defendant abused a position of public trust,” Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel W. Glad argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum. “The 165 million people who pay into the system expect that their hard-earned tax dollars are appropriately allocated.”
“This investigation was one of the most egregious employee cases we have ever investigated,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Thanos. “This type of dishonesty and deceit from government employees cannot be tolerated. I would like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their efforts in prosecuting this case.”
According to the charges, Cruz and his co-schemers recruited recipients of Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Benefits to receive additional payments on top of what they were legitimately owed. Cruz authorized the fraudulent payments by entering false codes into the SSA’s electronic system. Cruz made sure that each of the fraudulent payments was for slightly less than $6,000 in order to avoid triggering the need for his supervisor’s approval.
Including Cruz, all five defendants charged in the federal investigation have been convicted.