Incredible: a man living in Tijuana, Mexico has been receiving Social Security disability benefits while pretending to live in the United States– for 37 years.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports, “What authorities uncovered was 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.”
The name the illegal used is Andres Avelino Anduaga, which he used to assume U.S. citizenship in 1980. He used a fake birth certificate, applied for a California driver’s license, Social Security number and U.S. passport.
Official documents identify him as Abraham Riojos, born in Alpine, Texas, in 1958.
Over a period of 37 years Andres/Abraham freely traveled between Mexico and America and received nearly $361,000 in government benefits.
Earlier this year, he pled guilty to theft of public property and for “being a previously removed unauthorized immigrant in the U.S.”
The investigation began in 2014 when the Social Security office in Chula Vista alerted its Office of the Inspector General that private mailboxes near the U.S.-Mexico border were potentially being used for residency fraud.
Only U.S. citizens or valid visa holders can receive Social Security disability benefits, and they must reside in the United States.
In April 2015, during a standard eligibility review, Andres/Abraham gave an address that was a mailbox rental facility. When he came to his interview, he presented a state ID card presenting his false identity and said he was renting a room at the address he gave. The alleged landlord whom the investigator called, confirmed his story.
The next year, investigators went to the address and the alleged landlord admitted that Andres/Abraham had never lived there– but lived in Mexico.
Investigators also discovered that another person tried to apply for Social Security disability benefits in Oceanside under the same name, using a fake birth certificate with the same date and place of birth, according to the complaint, the Tribune reports.
After combing through criminal records, the investigators found that the man claiming to be Andres/Abraham had used 21 different names and six dates of birth, dating back to 1974– and had a criminal record. His record includes a firearms violation, forgery, cocaine possession and multiple DUIs, according to prosecutors, the Tribune reports.
On top of all of this: Andres/Abraham had been deported twice– in 1994 and 2000.
The real Abraham Riojos– whose identity was stolen– lives in Immokalee, Fla., a rural town south of Fort Myers. The Tribune reports that he told the agents that he had no idea that his identity had been used all these years.
The fake Andres/Abraham first applied for Supplemental Security Income benefits in 1989 and was awarded monthly payments retroactive to 1988. They totaled $244,441 until Aug. 1, 2016, according to his plea agreement.
With his fake identity and paperwork he qualified for Medi-Cal benefits and payments. as an illegal and non U.S. citizen and non-California resident, he would have been ineligible. However, he received $112,981 in total– and illegally received more than $3,486 in food stamps under a county program, court documents reveal.
His arrest warrant bears the name Jose Reyes, and besides other names, Riojos and Riojas, he used Jose Gonzalez-Cardoza. Later, confessed that his real name is Andres Avelino Anduaga. But that may not be true.
According to a motion filed by his defense attorney in January, he as the defendant is referred to as Omar Anduaga.