From the U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas:
HOUSTON – A federal jury has convicted a 70-year-old Houston man of fraudulently taking government money for more than 20 years, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
The jury deliberated for less than an hour before convicting Fred Samson following a two-day trial.
Samson’s parents passed away in Poland in 1995. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) was unaware of this and believed they still resided in Houston. As such, SSA continued to pay their monthly retirement benefits.
The government provided evidence and testimony demonstrating Samson wrongly collected these benefits that were intended for his deceased parents.
The jury saw copies of U.S. Treasury checks with endorsements containing Samson’s signature. Bank records also revealed Samson opened a joint bank account in his and his mother’s name more than a decade after she had passed away and directed her monthly benefits into that account. Witness testimony detailed withdrawals made from accounts held in both his parents’ names. Samson was the only person who had made those withdrawals.
In 2016, SSA attempted to contact Samson’s father at his address of record in Houston. The jury heard testimony Samson had claimed, falsely, that his parents moved to Poland two years prior.
The jury also heard about several inconsistent statements Samson made over the course of the investigation. He first claimed he had been sending the money to Poland, but later said he was using the money because his parents gave him permission to do so. He also stated he had been using the funds since 2000, but later admitted he had done so since they had passed away.
He later acknowledged he wrote a letter to SSA saying his parents were still alive, admitting he was afraid of getting in trouble and did not have the money to pay it back.
At trial, Samson tried to claim he had been unaware his parents had passed away. He said he had a falling out with his family and had not spoken with his parents since they moved back to Poland in the early ‘90s. He also argued there was a language barrier and may not have understood details he discussed with authorities.
The jury did not believe Samson’s claims and found him guilty as charged.
Authorities estimate Samson illegally claimed more than $90,000 in government funds as a result of the scheme.
U.S. District Judge Sim Lake presided over the trial and set sentencing for February 2020. At that time, Samson faces up to 10 years in federal prison as well as a possible $250,000 maximum fine. He may be required to also pay restitution to SSA. Samson was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
SSA-OIG conducted the investigation. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Sandel and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Day are prosecuting the case.