New Mexico Man Pleads Guilty to Scheme to Send Stolen Social Security Benefits to Nigeria
BOSTON—A New Mexico man pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Boston in connection with a scheme in which Social Security benefits were obtained using stolen identities, and the proceeds wired to Nigeria.
Jasper Denetclaw, 43, pleaded guilty to theft of public money. U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel scheduled sentencing for Nov. 10, 2015.
In early 2014, Denetclaw met a woman on Facebook who offered him the opportunity to earn some money. The woman put him in touch with “Simon” who was allegedly located in Nigeria. Following instructions from “Simon,” Denetclaw opened two bank accounts and provided “Simon” with the information for those accounts and for a third account he had previously opened. After funds had been placed in the accounts, Denetclaw then withdrew or wired a portion of the $205,879 that had been deposited as instructed by “Simon.”
The money in the accounts was from direct deposits of Social Security benefits, obtained illegally by filing applications for retirement benefits in the names of ten real people, including some Massachusetts residents. Each victim had reached full retirement age, and, therefore, the fraudulent applications resulted in lump-sum benefits payments of approximately $20,000 each. The government recovered about $100,000 when the fraud was detected; however, Denetclaw had succeeded in withdrawing the rest of the money, wiring over $67,000 to individuals in Nigeria, and keeping some of the money for himself. Denetclaw stated that, in the beginning, he thought it was a regular business, but, admitted that after he checked the accounts and realized the money was from the Social Security Administration, he knew it was wrong.
The charging statute provides a sentence of no greater than ten years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater, restitution, and forfeiture of assets. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Scott Antolik, Special Agent in Charge of the Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Boston Field Division, made the announcement today. Assistance was provided by the Phoenix, Ariz. and El Paso, Texas field offices of the Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations and the Redding, Calif. and Gallup, N.M. field offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Landry of Ortiz’s Major Crimes Unit.