From the U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas:
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - Guatemozin Garcia, 59, of Alice, has pleaded guilty to fraudulently receiving Social Security disability benefits, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
Garcia began receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) after reporting he was unable to work as a result of disorders of the back. However, the investigation revealed that numerous individuals had regularly paid Garcia to prepare gravesites for funeral services during the time of his alleged disability. Specifically, Garcia would physically dig graves using a tractor and shovel, set up and take down tents, chairs and artificial grass used during the services. He would also perform other tasks as directed. Law enforcement later witnessed Garcia performing the described tasks.
At today’s hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jason B. Libby, Garcia admitted he concealed all of his work activity from January 2008 until October 2013. As a result of the fraud, Garcia and his dependents received $148,043, in Social Security Retirement Survivors Disability Insurance Program benefits to which they were not entitled.
Social Security disability benefits are paid from the Disability Trust Fund to disabled persons who meet eligibility requirements. Other persons, such as the beneficiary’s spouse and minor children, may also be entitled to SSA benefits because of the disability of a wage-earner. The amount paid, on a monthly basis, is dependent on the wage-earner’s previously paid taxes, whether the wage earner is alive or deceased and whether Part B Medicare premiums are withheld.
Sentencing has been set for Dec. 12, 2014. At that time, Garcia faces up to five years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the SSA Office of the Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert D. Thorpe Jr. is prosecuting.