Joe Rogers – Special Agent, Office of Investigations, Seattle Field Division
Hello, my name is Joe Rogers and I’m a Special Agent for the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General. I work for the Cooperative Disability Investigations Unit or CDIU in Seattle Washington.
Today I would like to tell you about an investigation I recently completed involving a man named Anthony George who used the name Sonny Fisher, and his wife, Roxanne George, who used the name, Sally Mitchell.
The investigation was initiated based on an anonymous tip stating that Sonny Fisher was really Anthony George and that he was using his two identities to commit Social Security Fraud. The CDIU determined that ultimately Anthony and Roxanne were associated with nine other subjects and became part of a larger investigation called, Operation Smoke and Mirrors.
Social Security Records showed that Sonny Fisher was actively receiving Supplemental Security Income under that name and Social Security number, and had been since he was first allowed to collect SSI in 1993 due to a diagnosis of Crohn's Disease.
In 1998, when SSA began to review his disability record, Mr. Fisher feigned that in addition to suffering from Crohn's Disease, he was also developmentally disabled. For example, Mr. Fisher claimed he needed help dressing himself because he was unable to perform simple tasks such as tying his shoes or zipping his pants and that he spent his days watching cartoons on television and playing with cars. He also told SSA that he rented a room from a friend and that he relied on friends to assist him with his personal needs including shopping. Mr. Fisher continued to receive SSI until October 2010.
Since he had been approved to receive SSI, Mr. Fisher was able to also apply for and receive assistance from the State of Washington in the form of cash payments, medical assistance, and food assistance.
Our investigation confirmed that Sonny Fisher’s true name was actually Anthony GEORGE. Using his true name and the SSN associated with that name, Anthony George lived a very active lifestyle. He sold cars, trucks, and recreational vehicles that he purchased at auto auctions, he was also very active buying and selling scrap metal, which required frequent travel across the United States. We obtained records showing that Anthony George received hundreds of thousands of dollars selling scrap metal to various recycling companies in the State of Washington and across the United States. At one point, numerous Craigslist ads were located listing the vehicles Anthony George was trying to sell, and he was observed meeting with potential vehicle buyers. In addition, several customers who Anthony George sold recreational vehicles to were located and interviewed. Those customers reported paying Anthony and Roxanne tens of thousands of dollars for the vehicles they purchased. The Georges also resided in a $430,000 dollar home in an upscale neighborhood with their children.
During surveillance operations, Anthony George slash Sonny Fisher was observed coming and going from his primary residence. He was observed driving vehicles and carrying on a normal life while SSA continued to believe he was developmentally disabled and continued paying him.
In order to further conceal his two lives, Anthony George maintained a valid Driver's License from the State of Oregon in his true name and a valid Identification Card from the State of Washington under his Sonny Fisher identity.
Anthony and Roxanne attended a medical review together at a local SSA office. During this meeting, Anthony presented himself as Sonny. He was observed acting developmentally disabled. He was unable to answer basic information about himself including his phone number or how tall he was. Roxanne dominated the interview and attempted to answer all the questions for Anthony.
The results from our investigation indicted Anthony and Roxanne George in June 2011 along with eleven other related family members and associates who were also involved in similar schemes. They were arrested in June 2011 along with nine other co-defendants, and both Anthony and his wife pled guilty to Social Security Fraud.
Anthony was ultimately sentenced to twenty-seven months in Federal Prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $198,149.27 in restitution to SSA and the State of Washington. When Anthony addressed the court during the sentencing he stated, “I’m a liar; it’s all there in black and white.”
Roxanne was ultimately sentenced to six months in Federal Prison, followed by six months in a half way house, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $91,527.84 in restitution to SSA and the State of Washington.
These types of cases show how the Office of the Inspector General continues to save the government millions of dollars every year.