An illegal alien from Mexico who assumed the identity of an American citizen stole $360,908.85 in fraudulent federal, state, and local government benefits over a 37-year period, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Diego. The man, who was deported at least twice before, has pleaded guilty to theft charges in federal court, and he is due to be sentenced on May 29. At that time, the judge could impose a penalty of up to 12 years behind bars
As part of the plea deal, the defendant, identified by the U.S. Attorney as Tijuana resident Andres Avelino Anduaga, 66, agreed to refund the entire amount (the legal term for which is restitution) of taxpayer-funded benefits that he banked over the years. He could also be ordered to pay a fine that could be as high as $971,000, the government prosecutor’s office added.
The San Diego Union-Tribune explained what happened in this case.
“Andres Avelino Anduaga — if that’s even his real name — admitted to assuming the identity of a U.S. citizen in 1980. Armed with a fake birth certificate, he developed a seemingly legitimate persona by applying for a California driver’s license, Social Security number and U.S. passport…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.”
Parenthetically, California is a jurisdiction that issues driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.
That suspect took the identity of a Florida resident Abraham Riojos who had no idea he was the victim of identity theft, the Union-Tribune noted. Law enforcement investigators have yet to figure out how the defendant seized upon the other man’s identity, but say that the two men don’t know each other.
Apparently the feds finally got wind of the rip-off when the Social Security Administration began routinely checking in 2014 as to whether Anduaga was still eligible for disability benefits, and questions arose as to where he actually lived. In the meantime, he reportedly pocketed about $250,000 in federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, which are only supposed to be awarded to U.S. citzens or visa holders who live in the U.S., plus California healthcare coverage amounting to about $113,000, and about $3,500 in food stamps.
Border patrol officers detained Anduaga on November 28, 2017, at a pedestrian border crossing in San Ysidro pursuant to an arrest warrant under another name. He allegedly traveled back and forth by the same route several times each week and allegedly has a criminal history under 21 different names.
“The programs that this defendant stole from — for decades — provide benefits to America’s most needy,” U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said in response to the guilty plea. “This prosecution demonstrates the commitment of the United States Attorney’s Office to protecting the integrity of our welfare programs and punishing those who prey on the goodwill of our nation and its taxpayers.”
The Social Security Administration is now aware that there is potential residency fraud involved with private mailboxes located near the U.S. border with Mexico.