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Nampa Woman Pleads Guilty to Theft of Government Money

January 27, 2022

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

BOISE – A Nampa woman pleaded guilty to theft of government money.

According to court records, in September 2010, Maria Vasquez, 37, of Nampa, filed an application with the Social Security Administration (SSA) for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for her son with disabilities. Vasquez was listed as representative payee, and SSA approved the application one month later based upon her reported income. SSA notified Vasquez that she is under a continuing obligation to notify SSA if her income changes.

In 2014, Vasquez completed a redetermination of her son’s benefits over the phone with an SSA claims specialist. Vasquez stated that her husband earned approximately $1,000 per month. Again, SSA notified Vasquez that she is under a continuing obligation to notify SSA if her income changes.

Tax returns show that after 2014, however, Vasquez’s husband owned a painting business that made significant money. Specifically, Vasquez and her husband filed joint taxes and had income from her husband’s business of $52,331, $24,286, $108,777, $80,659, $199,142, and $175,882 in 2014 through 2019, respectively. Despite the increased income, which made her son ineligible to receive SSI, Vasquez never reported to SSA the change in income.

In total, SSA deposited $58,079.40 between January 2014 and September 2020 into an account belonging to Vasquez and her son. As part of the plea agreement with the Government, Vasquez agreed to pay restitution to SSA in the amount of $58,079.40.

“Misusing Social Security benefits, taxpayer funds, is a criminal and punishable act, which my office takes very seriously,” said U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez, Jr. “Auditors and criminal investigators will continue to collaborate with SSA and other agencies to identify those who falsify reports for their personal gain. Together with our partners at SSA Office of the Inspector General, we will continue to hold accountable those who commit crimes involving Social Security benefits,” Mr. Gonzalez added.

“For several years as representative payee for her son, Ms. Vasquez misrepresented her household income to the Social Security Administration to fraudulently receive Supplemental Security Income benefits, a critical safety net for those in need,” said Christian Assaad, Acting Special Agent in Charge, SSA Office of the Inspector General, Seattle Field Division. “This guilty plea demonstrates that our office will continue to pursue those who defraud SSA. I thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecuting this case and holding her accountable for her criminal actions.”

Vasquez is scheduled to be sentenced on April 18, 2022 and faces a statutory maximum of ten years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, and up to three years of supervised release. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This case is being investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General.

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