Santiago and Rosa Carrasco have pleaded guilty to faking Santiago’s death in 2004 in order to claim more than $400,000 in death benefits.
Huffington Post reports that Matt Lockhart, a prosecutor for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office told them that:
“They were a suburban family living their lives. But then they come up with this wacky plan out of fear of losing what they’d worked for.”
The couple was worried about losing social security benefits, because Santiago was living in the U.S. illegally, under the stolen identity of Lucio Rodriguez. The real Lucio is actually Carrasco’s uncle, and is a living U.S. citizen.
Santiago, 52, and Rosa, 54, planned their scheme in 2001, following the September 11th terrorist attacks, because the U.S. had begun to crack down on illegal immigrants.
The Orange County Register reports that in 2004, Santiago traveled to Mexico to obtain a fake death certificate for “Lucio Rodriguez.” After this, Santiago and Rosa Carrasco began receiving social security benefits for the “deceased” Lucio.
According to Huffington Post, the couple’s scheme seemed to go well for seven years, as Santiago began living under his real name. However, their carefully laid out plan was not to be. In 2011, a letter was sent to the US Department of Justice from an anonymous source, which layed out the O.C. couple’s crime.
Lockhart told the publication that Santiago and Rosa were arrested in August of 2011 by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. The couple was living separately at the time, with Santiago living in Fontana, while Rosa lived with the couple’s two daughters in Santa Ana.
Upon his arrest, Santiago even claimed that he had not been receiving the death benefits for years, because he and Rosa were separated. Despite this claim, both parties were still charged with two felony counts of grand theft. According to the Orange County Register, the couple was sentenced to two years in custody and two years of mandatory supervision upon release. Santiago and Rosa Carrasco were also ordered to jointly pay back the $413,000 plus an additional 10% of the sum in interest.