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Former Social Security Employee Of California Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy And Theft Charges

June 18, 2019

Office Affiliation: The Office of Investigations

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of California:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Eric Lemoyne Willis, 43, of West Sacramento, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to defraud the United States, theft of government property, and aggravated identity theft, United States Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced. 

According to court documents, Willis and his co-defendant, Darron Dimitri Ross, conspired to steal public money from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Willis was an SSA employee from approximately 2003 until his departure in January 2018, and from at least 2016 he was as an Operations Supervisor in the South Sacramento and Lodi, California, field offices. During this timeframe, Willis used his authority as an SSA employee to access the confidential Social Security records of numerous Social Security beneficiaries. These records contained personally identifiable information (PII) including names, addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth, account numbers, family information, and benefit payment amounts. Willis would seek out PII for beneficiaries who used direct deposit for payment of large benefits. Willis then gave this PII to Ross who resided in North Carolina.

According to court documents, Ross’s alleged role in these crimes included calling numerous SSA field offices across the country and using the stolen PII to impersonate the beneficiaries. Ross also opened at least 44 online bank accounts under fraudulent identities to receive diverted SSA benefit payments. If Ross succeeded in convincing an SSA representative that he was the beneficiary, he would request that the beneficiary’s direct deposit account be changed to one of the conspirators’ fraudulent accounts. The SSA then proceeded to deposit benefit payments into the fraudulent account until the fraud was detected. The conspirators were then free to withdraw the funds at ATMs and spend the money using debit cards. Ross also transferred a portion of the stolen proceeds to Willis for his participation in these crimes.

SSA has identified at least 160 beneficiaries nationwide who were targeted by these crimes, and the total fraud loss suffered by SSA has exceeded $480,000. Willis and Ross spent the proceeds of their crimes on, among other things, trips to Las Vegas and luxury items including Rolex watches.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Social Security Administration – Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Artuz is prosecuting the case.

Willis remains released on bond pending sentencing, and his co-defendant, Ross, remains released on bond pending trial. Ross has pleaded not guilty to the charges in the indictment. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Willis is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb on September 9, 2019. Willis faces a maximum statutory penalty of 17 years in prison and a $750,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Eric Lemoyne Willis, 43, of West Sacramento, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to defraud the United States, theft of government property, and aggravated identity theft, United States Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced. 

According to court documents, Willis and his co-defendant, Darron Dimitri Ross, conspired to steal public money from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Willis was an SSA employee from approximately 2003 until his departure in January 2018, and from at least 2016 he was as an Operations Supervisor in the South Sacramento and Lodi, California, field offices. During this timeframe, Willis used his authority as an SSA employee to access the confidential Social Security records of numerous Social Security beneficiaries. These records contained personally identifiable information (PII) including names, addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth, account numbers, family information, and benefit payment amounts. Willis would seek out PII for beneficiaries who used direct deposit for payment of large benefits. Willis then gave this PII to Ross who resided in North Carolina.

According to court documents, Ross’s alleged role in these crimes included calling numerous SSA field offices across the country and using the stolen PII to impersonate the beneficiaries. Ross also opened at least 44 online bank accounts under fraudulent identities to receive diverted SSA benefit payments. If Ross succeeded in convincing an SSA representative that he was the beneficiary, he would request that the beneficiary’s direct deposit account be changed to one of the conspirators’ fraudulent accounts. The SSA then proceeded to deposit benefit payments into the fraudulent account until the fraud was detected. The conspirators were then free to withdraw the funds at ATMs and spend the money using debit cards. Ross also transferred a portion of the stolen proceeds to Willis for his participation in these crimes.

SSA has identified at least 160 beneficiaries nationwide who were targeted by these crimes, and the total fraud loss suffered by SSA has exceeded $480,000. Willis and Ross spent the proceeds of their crimes on, among other things, trips to Las Vegas and luxury items including Rolex watches.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Social Security Administration – Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Artuz is prosecuting the case.

Willis remains released on bond pending sentencing, and his co-defendant, Ross, remains released on bond pending trial. Ross has pleaded not guilty to the charges in the indictment. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Willis is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb on September 9, 2019. Willis faces a maximum statutory penalty of 17 years in prison and a $750,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

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