A 27-Year “Mistake”

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Social security card and American money dollar bills close up concept

An Ohio man pleaded guilty in 2019 to Social Security Fraud after spending his mother’s social security checks for 27 years after she died… and before the Social Security Administration (SSA) finally discovered and stopped his scheme in 2017. (Is anyone else concerned that it took nearly three decades to discover this scheme?)

Curtis Joash, a former truck driver and pastor pleaded guilty to wire fraud and theft of public money after admitting to stealing a total of $187,665. “I made a mistake,” Joash, said during his January 2020 sentencing hearing. (The good pastor made more like 300 mistakes, as he pocketed more than 300 posthumous social security payments to his mother.)

Under a plea agreement, Joash was sentenced to five years of probation, including six months of home confinement, and was ordered to pay $187,665 in restitution to the Social Security Administration. (One wonders what kind of interest would accrue on those payments over 27 years? He’s lucky he didn’t defraud the IRS.)

Agents uncovered Joash’s theft through the Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) program, which investigates benefits to people at least 90 years old who haven’t used Medicare for the previous three years.

SSA Office of the Inspector General audits and reports released in 2019 show the Administration kept paying benefits to half of the people identified as deceased in previous OIG audits. (Whoops!)  A 2018 audit found the SSA was hampered by increased workload and the “sharp decline in overall staff experience.” (Circumstances that those prone to Social Security Fraud are eager to exploit!)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Fox 13 article, “Cincinnati man cashed deceased mother’s social security checks for 27 years,” published Jan. 27, 2020.

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Curtis Joash spent his dead mother’s social security checks for 27 years before the Social Security Administration finally discovered his fraud in 2017 and stopped it.

The former Cincinnati truck driver and pastor pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud and theft of public money after he admitted to stealing more than 300 monthly social security payments mistakenly paid to his mother, Novellar Butler.

Additional information comes from a WCPO news article, “Cincinnati man cashed deceased mother’s social security checks for 27 years,” published Jan. 27, 2020.

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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.