From the U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California:
SAN DIEGO – Abel Jose Perez pleaded guilty in federal court today to theft of public property, admitting that he stole $271,925.60 in Social Security retirement benefits intended for his father, Angel Perez-Barajas, who died in 1997.
During a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew G. Schopler, Perez acknowledged that for more than 16 years, he retained exclusive access to and controlled a bank account belonging to his deceased parents, and all funds deposited therein. Perez, who was not an authorized user of the bank account, also never informed either the bank or the Social Security Administration of his father’s death.
Perez also admitted that he never requested that the Social Security Administration terminate the monthly direct deposit of his father’s retirement benefits, which continued each month from August 1997 until February 2014. Indeed, Perez admitted that he knew his father’s Social Security retirement benefits should have terminated upon his death, but he nonetheless converted all $271,925.60 to his own use, with no intention of ever returning it to the United States of America.
“The only difference between this and armed robbery is the gun,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson. “This defendant stole hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the ultimate victims are those who pay into Social Security expecting to receive benefits down the road. We won’t let thieves get away with these crimes, even if they have untraditional methods.”
“The Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General is committed to pursuing those who defraud SSA and its benefit programs, which are a lifeline for so many Americans and their families,” said Robb Stickley, the Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Division, which is responsible for Southern California. “We will continue to assist the U.S. Attorney’s Office in bringing violators to justice."
As a part of his plea agreement, Perez agreed to pay full restitution to the Social Security Administration for all of the money he gained by his crime. Perez faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to twice his gross gains from this crime at his sentencing on August 7, 2017 before U.S. District Court Judge William Q. Hayes.