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Social Security Fraud: Easier Than You Might Think?

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Anna Rotondo has never met Linda Ann Weston. She’s never been in the basement of horrors, where police allege Weston was keeping four mentally-challenged adults as she stole their Social Security disability checks.

But judging by the mail Rotondo was receiving at her Rhawnhurst home, even she knew something was fishy. (see related story)

For as long as five years, Rotondo says she received Social Security statements and Medicare bills for people with “at least four to six different names.”

“There had to be something going on – had to be something.”

Rotondo says she tried alerting the Postal Service and the Social Security Administration, whose Mid-Atlantic office is on Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia.

“No one ever got back to me, from either of the places,” she said.

So, how is it possible that Weston might be able to steal the Social Security checks from several people, as police allege, possibly for years, without the fraud ever being detected?

Well, some experts say because Social Security is an enormous system, doling out hundreds of billions of dollars a year, it has a critical weakness.

“The government relies on the honesty of the person seeking the benefits,” said Richard Zack, a former assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted government fraud cases. Zack is now an attorney for Pepper Hamilton in Philadelphia. Social Security is “vulnerable to fraud because they rely on the honesty of the person seeking the benefits,” he said.

When someone applies to manage another person’s benefits, they simply fill out a four-page form and take it to a benefits office.

“The problem is that benefits person does not have the authority or the time necessarily … to make sure those answers are truthful,” Zack said. “The government is always dealing with many, many applicants.”

One of the questions on that form requires applicants to report if they’ve ever been convicted of a felony. But a 2010 report from the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General found hundreds of applicants lie about their background, and it is not always investigated.

Reported by Ben Simmoneau, CBS 3

  • BobbyMcCracken

    This is an incredible story that speaks to the prehistoric nature of our government. “The government relies on the honesty of the person seeking the benefits,” Are you kidding me??? Look at the ilk of these people. Go to North Philly. Most of the people of a “hustle” not a job! I can tell you all with 100% certainty that their are excellent business intelliegence compnies that can map out a solution to social security’s biggest issue: FRAUD! The most unmotivated people on this planet can somehow get motivated when they see a vulnersability in a federal program that allows them to be enriched. SSI is intended to serve the people who need help and tghe people who have paid into it. If the government hired a business intelliegence company to create an algorithm that constantly updates itself and would segment each receipient by address, name and, ultimately, the bank account that it is deposited to the government could sync this information with the banks that these checks are direct deposited to. NO MORE CHECKS MAILED! If you want SSI then you have to have a bank account and be accountable. And there goesd the fraud. We have a local entreopeneur named Ryan Caplan that owns Cold Light Solutions in Wayne, PA. I knwo this guy could map out a solution and build it within a year. We would save BILLIONS every year from here on out and we could HIRE AUDITORS to make sure that any cheaters who are caught – and they will get caught – are dismissed from the social security program forever. Enough excuses. Get into the 21st Century SSI!

    • Gary Drewsen

      What you have posted Bobby McCracken is exactly how it works in Australia and New Zealand. Everything is traceable and the culprits are caught.

  • Fed Up

    No excuses! It shouldn’t be so easy to steal another’s SS checks. It’s people working in the system not doing the job they are hired to do. With so many people out of work the government should hire some of them to look over the Social Security and Welfare systems more carefully. Fraud is costing the taxpayers money and it’s not fair. The taxpayers are struggling too and I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say we are sick of it! I’m working my butt off to support my family while others are miling the system and basically stealing the money that I’m paying in taxes. Something needs to be done and quickly.

    • Tiredofitall

      Truer words were never spoken. Thank you.

  • Understanding The ‘Basement Of Horrors’ Case « CBS Philly

    […] Anna Rotondo, lives in the former home of Linda Ann Weston where for as long as five years, she received Social Security statements and Medicare bills for people with “at least four to six different names.” More […]

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