Having Fun with Others’ Funds

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Social Security cards with cash and benefit amount numbers

Sean Okrzesik, 34, of Syracuse, N.Y., was sentenced to 25 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges of aggravated identity theft and theft of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. SSI is funded by general tax revenue and helps the elderly and disabled, with little or no income, cover the costs of daily living. (It’s not meant to be an extra source of income for lazy fraudsters.)

Here’s what happened. From February 2020 through February 2021, Okrzesik opened several bank accounts under the names and Social Security numbers of various SSI beneficiaries or their representative payees while employed by the Syracuse District Office of the Social Security Administration. (So, in other words, it was an inside job.)

Okrzesik diverted SSI benefit payments for the intended beneficiaries into the fraudulent bank accounts. (He was intent on having fun with his victim’s funds.) He used the stolen funds for various personal expenses including jewelry, clothing, video game equipment, and even airline tickets to the Caribbean. (Nothing like a tropical vacation full of beaches, cold drinks, and an impeding arrest for fraud.)

It never ceases to amaze me how eager criminals are to steal from funds that were meant to help fellow citizens. (They’d steal from anyone just to make their lives more comfortable without any thought as to how their illegal actions impact others.)

To make sure that other criminals don’t follow suit, Okrzesik’s sentencing also includes a 3-year supervised release, and the requirement to pay $103,798.77 in restitution to the Social Security Administration (SSA). (Here’s hoping that this serves as a warning for those who are thinking about doing the same thing.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Former Syracuse Social Security Administration Employee Sentenced for Aggravated Identity Theft and Theft of Frauds,” on March 16, 2022.

SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – Sean Okrzesik, age 34, of Syracuse, was sentenced today to serve 25-months in federal prison on charges of aggravated identity theft and theft of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  The charges stemmed from Okrzesik’s use of the names and Social Security numbers of SSI beneficiaries or their representative payees in order to steal SSI benefit payments.  Okrzesik’s conduct occurred while he was employed in the Syracuse District Office of the Social Security Administration (SSA).  SSI is a federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenue. The program is designed to help the elderly and people with disabilities, with little or no income, cover the costs of basic needs.

The announcement was made by United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman and Sharon B. MacDermott, Special Agent in Charge of the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, New York Field Office.

 

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.