Rhode Island Man Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison for Credit Card Theft and Social Security Fraud

Tuesday, August 26, 2014
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From the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Rhode Island:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Henry A. Fellela, Jr., 56, of Johnston, was sentenced today to 48 months in federal prison for making nearly $83,000 in purchases with the use of stolen credit cards belonging to 17 individuals and fraudulently collecting more than $58,000 in Supplemental Security Income benefits by falsely claiming that he had no permanent home address while living with his wife and children in their Johnston residence.

Fellela’s sentence is announced by United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha; Smithfield Police Chief Richard P. St. Sauveur, Jr.; Shelly Binkowski, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division; and Scott E. Antolik, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Boston Field Office of the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General.

According to court documents and information presented to the court, an investigation initiated by Smithfield Police and U.S. Postal Inspectors in September 2010 revealed that Fellela stole a credit card from the mailbox of an 85-year-old Smithfield resident and used that person’s identity and stolen credit card to make several purchases, including electronic goods, clothing and gasoline, totaling $3,077.13. As the investigation broadened, it was determined that between 2008 and 2012, the defendant activated credit cards belonging to sixteen other individuals and made numerous purchases, including high-end consumer items and gift cards. In total, Mr. Fellela made unauthorized purchases using stolen credit cards totaling $82,991.60.

In addition, according to information presented to the court, an investigation by the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General/Office of Investigations determined that three months after Fellela was released from federal prison in March 2004 to begin serving a 21-month term of supervised release on an unrelated matter, and continuing until about June 1, 2012, Fellela fraudulently collected Supplemental Security Income benefits totaling $58,207.34, after falsely reporting that he had no permanent address at the time he applied for and received the benefits. The investigation revealed that Fellela collected the benefits while living with his wife and children in their Johnston residence.

United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha commented “The conduct by the defendant here was so brazen and so low that it makes it difficult to know where to begin. Does it get any worse than stealing the identity and credit card of an 85 year old person to feed your own greed? Does it get any worse than claiming homelessness, a real problem for so many Rhode Islanders, and collecting thousands of undeserved dollars while living in comfort and enjoying high-end consumer goods? If ever a defendant deserved a long prison sentence, it is this one.”

“The Smithfield Police are thankful for the assistance provided by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in investigating this crime committed against one of our elderly residents,” said Smithfield Police Chief Richard P. St. Sauveur, Jr. “The successful investigation and ultimate prosecution of Mr. Fellela by the United States Attorney should serve as evidence that the entire criminal justice system works, and will continue to work tirelessly to hold accountable those individuals who engage in fraudulent activity and demonstrate no regard for the financial impact that their crimes have on victims.

At sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., also ordered Fellela to serve 3 years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term. Fellela pleaded guilty on April 8, 2014, as charged in a five-count indictment, to one count each of credit card fraud, aggravated identity theft and Social Security fraud, and two counts of theft of government funds.

Shelly Binkowski, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Boston Division said, “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to working with our partners to bring to justice those who would victimize the elderly and steal from some of the very programs designed to help those in need.”

“Making false statements to Social Security to fraudulently collect Supplemental Security Income—a government payment intended to assist those truly in need—is an intolerable offense on its own, yet Mr. Fellela was also found to have committed tens of thousands of dollars of credit card fraud,” said Social Security OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Scott Antolik. “Our office will continue to partner with the United States Attorney’s Office in Rhode Island to pursue all forms of fraud against Social Security's programs, especially instances of SSI fraud.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard W. Rose.