The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. In 2020, the Insurance Information Institute noted that approximately 1,660 Puerto Ricans alone had their identity stolen. (In one year, mind you.) One of those stolen identities enabled a Dominican national to commit Medicaid fraud, and Social Security fraud, not to mention the obvious, identity theft.
Juan Baez, 57, formerly of Roslindale, Mass., pleaded guilty to one charge of false Social Security number representation and one charge of making a falsified statement concerning health care issues. He used the identity of a Puerto Rican citizen to accomplish his ruse.
The stolen identity allowed Baez to obtain Massachusetts driver’s licenses and identification cards. For 12 years, he also used that identity to apply for and receive $18,997 in MassHealth, or Medicaid benefits he was not entitled to. (He definitely kept this scheme going for quite some time, most likely causing irreparable damage the victim.)
Identity theft can cause many emotional and physical problems for the victim. Emotions run the gamut of feeling violated, anxious and unsafe, or anger and frustration. The Identity Theft Resource Center says that 41% of identity theft victims experience sleep disturbances, while 29% develop physical symptoms such as aches and pains, heart palpitations, and stomach issues. (I wonder how many months or years it has taken Baez’s victim recover from this scam?)
Identity theft is a serious crime because so many other crimes can be committed by simply showing a photo ID like a driver’s license. You can apply for welfare, food stamps, unemployment, buy a house, apply for a mortgage, buy a car, or even purchase a gun. (And when a crime is committed with your identity, guess who gets in trouble first.)
In addition to being ordered to pay full restitution to Medicaid, Baez was sentenced to 14 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Once he has completed his sentence, he will be subject to deportation to his homeland. (I imagine he will develop a few physical and emotional symptoms while serving time behind bars, as well. Don’t let the screen door hit you on your way out, Mr. Baez.)
Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Dominican National Sentenced for Misusing Social Security Number and Making False Statement,” dated October 14, 2021.
BOSTON – A Dominican national was sentenced today in federal court in Boston for false statement and Social Security fraud charges.
Juan Baez, 57, who previously resided in Roslindale, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young to 14 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Baez was also ordered to pay restitution of $18,997. Baez will be subject to deportation proceedings upon completion of his sentence. On June 10, 2021, Baez pleaded guilty to one count of false representation of a Social Security number and one count of making a false statement relating to health care matters.