From the U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California:
SAN DIEGO –Abel Jose Perez of San Diego was sentenced today to 12 months and one day in federal prison for stealing $271,925.60 in Social Security retirement benefits intended for his father, who had died in 1997. As Perez admitted when pleading guilty, instead of informing the Social Security Administration of his father’s death, Perez continued to take benefits that had been deposited into a bank account in his deceased parents’ names. Soon after each month’s deposit from the Social Security Administration, Perez would forge his father’s signature on a bank check made payable to himself, and divert the funds for his own personal use.
The Social Security Administration pays retirement benefits to eligible retired workers, aged 62 or better, and to their eligible dependents. Although the widow or the minor child of a deceased retiree can receive posthumous benefits, Perez, 55, admitted that in this case he knew he was not entitled to receive any of the money paid out by Social Security after his father’s death. When entering his guilty plea on May 17, 2017, Perez admitted that for over 16 years he retained exclusive access to and controlled a bank account belonging to his deceased parents, enabling him to illegally convert over a quarter-million dollars of public money to his own use.
Acting United States Attorney Alana W. Robinson commented, “The theft of Social Security benefits is a direct attack on the most vulnerable and needy members of our community. Every dime of stolen benefits reduces the funds available to our retirees and other beneficiaries.” Acting U.S. Attorney Robinson observed that while this was the largest single Social Security theft in the Southern District of California, the office has prosecuted a significant number of such cases in the past three years. Moreover, she anticipated an increase in the office’s enforcement efforts designed to protect the public purse.
“The Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General is pleased to see that this crime, which affects every individual relying on the Social Security Trust Fund for their retirement, was taken seriously and punished appropriately in this case,” said Robb Stickley, the Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Division, which is responsible for Southern California. “We hope that this sentence sends a message that it is the responsibility of every individual in our society to protect their own retirement savings, and ensure that a loved one’s death does not go unreported.”
In addition to his prison sentence and period of supervised release, Perez was ordered to repay every dollar that he stole from the Social Security Administration. At the conclusion of his sentencing hearing, Perez was remanded into custody to begin serving his prison sentence.