A man who pretended to live in the United States but actually lived in Tijuana, Mexico created a fraud scheme that enabled him to obtain free social security in an identity theft scheme, reports the San Diego Tribune.
Authorities uncovered a 37-year identity theft scheme by an unauthorized immigrant and repeat felon who bilked federal, state and local governments out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits, according to a plea agreement entered in San Diego federal court this week.
The perpetrator’s name could be Andres Avelino Anduaga, but no one is sure of that. He admitted to assuming the identity of a U.S. citizen in 1980. He obtained a fake birth certificate, developed a seemingly legitimate persona by applying for a California driver’s license, Social Security number and U.S. passport.
The official documents identified him as Abraham Riojos, born in Alpine, Texas, in 1958.
The documents allowed him to move freely between Mexico and the U.S., and also to receive nearly $361,000 in government benefits over the years, reports The San Diego Tribune.
On Thursday, Anduaga, 66, pleaded guilty to theft of public property and being a previously removed unauthorized immigrant in the U.S.
He has agreed to pay back to several government agencies what he stole but could face additional fines as well as up to 12 years in prison when sentenced.
This investigation actually started in 2014 and has slowly unfolded clue by clue and has only now come to fruition. Only U.S. citizens or valid visa holders can receive Social Security disability benefits, and they must reside in the United States. Once it was discovered that a private mailbox near the U.S. Mexico border may be false, an Inspector General went to inspect it.
In April 2015, during a standard review to determine whether he was still eligible for benefits, the man who called himself Riojos gave an address on San Ysidro Boulevard — to a mailbox rental facility. When he was summoned to the Chula Vista office for an interview, he presented a state ID card identifying himself as Riojos and claimed to be renting a room from a man on I Street in Chula Vista.
But when investigators visited the home in January 2016, the man admitted Riojos never lived there but instead lived in Mexico, the complaint states.
Investigators turned to the border crossing records, finding frequent travels indicating Riojos had likely been living in Mexico since at least 2014.
They then learned that another person had tried to sign up for disability benefits in Oceanside under the same Riojos name, using a fake birth certificate with the same date and place of birth, according to the complaint.
The investigators then went to criminal records, where they found the man claiming to be Riojos had a rap sheet that included 21 different names and six dates of birth, dating back to 1974. The charges included firearms violations, forgery, cocaine possession and multiple DUIs.
An analysis of Anduaga’s benefits showed he first applied for Supplemental Security Income benefits in 1989 and was awarded payments retroactive to 1988. He received monthly payments — $244,441 total — until Aug. 1, 2016, according to his plea agreement.
He also qualified for Medi-Cal benefits and payments — which he shouldn’t have as an unauthorized immigrant — and received $112,981 total. Plus, he illegally received more than $3,486 in food stamps under a county program.
This kind of fraud is the exact reason why we need to be tougher on our borders and on border security in general. Who knows how many other people are pretending to be a U.S. citizen just to steal from the government.