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Appleton Man Sentenced To Prison For Defrauding Social Security Of Over $73,500 In Supplemental Security Income Benefits

November 23, 2021

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Wisconsin:

Acting United States Attorney Richard G. Frohling of the Eastern District of Wisconsin announced that on November 22, 2021, Senior U.S. District Judge William C. Griesbach sentenced Appleton resident John P. Fischer (age: 63) to 18 months’ imprisonment and three years’ supervised release after Fischer pled guilty to Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) Fraud, in violation of Title 42, United States Code, Section 1383a(a)(3)(A).

From 2009 to 2017, Fischer fraudulently received over $73,500 in federal and state SSI benefits by knowingly concealing numerous resources from the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). SSI is a nationwide welfare program for the blind, disabled, and those over 65 years of age who have little to no income and no more than $2,000 in resources. SSI is funded by general tax revenues, unlike SSA pensions and SSDI that are funded by payroll taxes.

Fischer filed for SSI claiming that he met all criteria, but in fact, he had bank accounts, investment accounts, and vehicles that put him well above the $2,000 limit. Among them was a Roth IRA worth more than $42,000 that Fischer knowingly concealed from the SSA and secretly cashed out. Fischer also paid over $48,000 for two GMC Acadia SUVs without notifying the SSA that he had the money or the vehicles. In addition, Fischer’s scheme involved concealing his accounts and vehicles under the guise of two different “churches,” which were simply a front to hide his assets.

At sentencing, Judge Griesbach rejected Fischer’s request for probation and stressed that Fischer’s serious and long-standing criminal conduct warranted substantial prison time for purposes of punishment, deterring others from committing fraud, and reinforcing the public’s confidence in social-safety-net programs like SSI. The court also ordered Fischer to pay full restitution for his crime.

To that end, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has initiated an action to seize and auction two of Fischer’s vehicles, including a fully restored 1957 Chevy Bel Air that Fischer concealed from the SSA.

“SSI benefits are designed to help those in true need,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Frohling. “Individuals who lie about their own circumstances to wrongfully obtain such benefits harm every taxpayer and hurt those in need by undermining the integrity of these vital programs.”

“SSI is a critical safety net that provides much needed assistance,” said Andrew Boockmeier, Special Agent in Charge, Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, Chicago Field Division. “Mr. Fischer’s fraudulent actions—failing to report and attempting to hide his assets—caused SSA to improperly pay benefits to which he was ineligible to receive. SSA OIG will continue to work to protect SSA benefits from fraud and misuse. I thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecuting this case.”

SSI Fraud is a felony punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and three years’ supervised release.

This case was investigated by the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General in Milwaukee. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy W. Funnell and Kelly B. Watzka.

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