Several recent judicial actions served as reminders of the OIG’s commitment to pursue Social Security disability fraud “facilitators” and end their schemes.
Earlier this month in Puerto Rico, Samuel Torres-Crespo was sentenced to eight months in prison for his role in a scheme to provide false medical reports to SSA, so people could fraudulently collect disability benefits.
Torres-Crespo, a former SSA employee who later worked as a non-attorney claimant representative, was one of 75 people indicted and arrested in Puerto Rico in August 2013 for their involvement in the disability fraud scheme. The investigation found Torres-Crespo conspired with several physicians to provide fraudulent disability reports, containing exaggerated and false information, to SSA on behalf of claimants Torres-Crespo represented. When SSA approved his claimants’ applications, Torres-Crespo charged each claimant as much as $6,000 for helping the claimant receive benefits. He pled guilty in 2014 to making false statements to SSA.
As part of his sentence, Torres-Crespo was barred from representing Social Security benefit applicants or working in any capacity related to SSA.
Bribery Scheme in South Florida
Another claimant representative and two former SSA employees also recently received prison sentences for their roles in a bribery and benefit fraud scheme near Miami.
In December, Irma Davidian was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to repay almost $2.8 million to several government agencies, including SSA. Davidian, like Torres-Crespo, worked as a representative for people applying for Social Security, Medicaid, and food stamp benefits. She guaranteed that, for a fee ranging from $2,000 to $5,000, she could produce those government benefits for people regardless of their personal circumstances.
From 2008 to 2014, Davidian made good on her word to her clients—by bribing government workers to approve or expedite her clients’ claims. Among the workers Davidian paid were former SSA employees Maria Sanchez and Alejandro Lomoso.
Davidian admitted to paying Sanchez and Lomoso a combined $24,500 so they would expedite her clients’ disability claims. Both pled guilty to accepting the bribes; Sanchez was sentenced in November to four months in prison, while Lomoso earlier this month received a six-month sentence.
Indictments in Miami Fraud Investigation
Also in Miami, this month a licensed psychiatrist and three of his employees were indicted for conspiring to defraud Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
According to the indictment, Dr. Fernando Mendez-Villamil and three of his employees recruited people who wanted to obtain benefits, and then, in exchange for fees, filed fraudulent claims with the government agencies on the clients’ behalf. All four were charged with multiple offenses, including conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, government theft, and making false statements to SSA.
These are complex, lengthy investigations, but through increased collaboration with Social Security, Disability Determination Services, and law enforcement agencies across the country, we’re focused on investigating similar schemes and rooting out people who abuse their “positions of trust” to defraud the government for personal gain.
As we said in a recent post, the President in November signed legislation that calls for stronger penalties for people in positions of trust—such as doctors, claimant representatives, or current or former agency employees—who defraud the government. With our ongoing investigations, and with the warning of longer prison sentences and increased fines, we can effectively deter others from “facilitating” these crimes.
You can help us do this, too. Report suspected Social Security fraud to us at oig.ssa.gov/report.