A Sumner County couple pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to their roles in defrauding the government of $121,770 in Social Security payments over an 18-year period.
Michael Dominic Rossi, 55, and his wife, Sigrid Helvig, 46, acknowledged that they knowingly defrauded the government of benefits they received through the Supplementary Security Income program operated by the Social Security Administration for some medically disabled citizens.
Rossi, who appeared in court in a wheelchair, became eligible for the benefits in 1983 when he was unmarried, according to court documents. When an SSI applicant is married and living with a spouse who is not SSI eligible, the spouse’s income is used to determine benefits in approved SSI payments.
Rossi and Helvig failed to report their 1993 marriage in San Diego to the SSA, and thus began their 18-year scheme that totaled $121,770 by 2011.
Rossi agreed to plead guilty to theft of government funds, while his wife pleaded guilty to Social Security fraud for failure to disclose that she was married in forms submitted to the SSA in May 2011.
According to the investigators, Rossi’s scheme included facilitating the transfer of funds through Fedwire from the U.S. Treasury in Philadelphia to his Regions Bank account in Bethpage, Tenn., about 40 miles northeast of Nashville.
Rossi and Helvig were arrested on Jan. 31 at their Bethpage residence.
The two were ordered by U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger to pay restitution for $121,770 in benefits they received.
Sentencing for the two is set for June 28.