From the U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California:
LOS ANGELES – A former Social Security Administration (SSA) employee pleaded guilty today to a federal criminal charge for stealing more than $176,000 in Social Security benefits designated for elderly and disabled beneficiaries.
Rowena Isabel Lokeni, 36, of Garden Grove, pleaded guilty today to one count of wire fraud. Lokeni was hired as an SSA service representative in 2008 and worked in the administration’s field office in Fountain Valley. She resigned from SSA shortly after her September 6 arrest on a federal grand jury indictment in this matter.
From her work cubicle, between April 2017 and August 2019, Lokeni accessed the SSA computer databases and queried the records of 10 Social Security beneficiaries, according to her plea agreement. Once she accessed the victims’ records, Lokeni fraudulently changed each victim’s direct deposit bank account and routing numbers to instead reflect her personal bank account’s routing and account numbers, the plea agreement states.
Of the 10 victims whose Social Security benefits were affected by Lokeni’s fraud, eight victims were supposed to be receiving disabled adult children benefits because they were unmarried adults who had a disability that began prior to their 22nd birthday, court documents state. The ninth victim was supposed to be receiving disability insurance benefits, while the tenth victim was supposed to be receiving retirement insurance benefits, according to the plea agreement.
Lokeni admitted to fraudulently obtaining a total of approximately $176,015 in Social Security payments.
United States District Judge John F. Walter has scheduled a January 6, 2020 sentencing hearing, at which time Lokeni will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
This matter was investigated by the Social Security Administration – Office of the Inspector General.
This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney David H. Chao of the General Crimes Section.