A 42-year-old former employee of the Social Security Administration has been federally charged for imposing phony "processing fees" for Supplement Security Income benefits. The U.S. attorney's office said that the SSA claims representative was charging beneficiaries a fee to process SSI payment claims.
According to the federal indictment, the defendant would contact SSI recipients by phone or text to tell them that their payments had gone through electronically in exchange for a "fee." The defendant has been charged with two counts of bribery and two counts of extortion, according to federal officials.
It has not been reported exactly how many SSI beneficiaries are believed to have been illegally charged by the defendant.
Federal officials suspect that the defendant may have also been taking advantage of SSI beneficiaries in other ways while he was employed by the SSA, and an investigation is underway. People with any tips are asked to contact the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General at 855-260-6353.
If convicted, the defendant could face up to 20 years in prison for each extortion charge and 15 years in prison for each bribery charge.
The SSI claims process can be long and confusing, which is why many people seek help. However, SSI beneficiaries, who are disabled adults and children, are particularly at risk of being taken advantage of. For that reason, it's important to only seek help from trustworthy sources, including reputable Social Security Disability law firms.
This is an especially distressing story because the defendant is accused of using his position with the SSA to convince recipients that he could be trusted. Anytime criminal behavior is expected, even among SSA employees, it is wise to file a report with the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General.
Source: Disability Scoop, "SSI ‘Processing Fee’ Prompts Federal Charges," Shaun Heasley, Sept. 27, 2013