Circumventing the Process

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Thief holding a social security card.

Robert Curtis, 63, of Winslow, Me., circumvented the eligibility process for receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and made quite a bit of money from the government while also receiving income as a medication deliverer. He pleaded guilty to Social Security fraud and is now facing up to a decade behind bars and significant fines. (But that’s not the only illegal thing he did.)

SSDI benefits are designated for individuals who are disabled and meet specific medical criteria. (These benefits are usually paid to people who are blind or disabled.) The program covers anyone who qualifies and certain members of their family if that individual has worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. Curtis used the government benefits program for supplemental income while he also collected Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. (He was milking the system for all he could get.) 

Court records show that Curtis began receiving MaineCare or Medicaid benefits in April 2010 and SNAP funds and SSDI benefits in February 2011. The fraudster had a steady income of government benefits flowing while also working as a medication deliverer. (Keep in mind that these government programs require recipients to report any work activity and income received. Failure to do so could impact eligibility.) 

Around the same time, Curtis was the lead plaintiff in a civil suit for lost wages, alleging his classification as an independent contractor was incorrect. He insisted that he should have been classified as an employee. He received more than $21,000 from that lawsuit. (He was just rolling in cash at this point.)

Let’s back up the bus for a moment. Curtis neglected to inform the SSA or the Maine Department of Health & Human Services (ME/DHHS) that he was working as a medication deliverer. He also failed to report all the income he was receiving along the way.

During a continuing disability review and over seven years of ME/DHHS benefit reviews, he denied he was working because he knew it would affect the amount of benefits he received. (He improperly received more than $92,000 in SSDI benefits, close to $12,000 in SNAP benefits, and more than $13,000 in MaineCare benefits. That’s a nice chunk for change for someone who really didn’t deserve it.)

When sentenced, Curtis is looking at up to a decade in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release. (Lesson learned? Don’t circumvent the law.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Winslow Man Pleads Guilty to Social Security Fraud,” dated March 30, 2021.

BANGOR, Maine: A Winslow man pleaded guilty today in federal court to Social Security fraud, Acting U.S. Attorney Donald E. Clark announced.

According to court records, Robert Curtis, 63, was a recipient of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit payments beginning in February 2011. SSDI benefits are paid to people who are blind or disabled. He also was a recipient of MaineCare coverage beginning in April 2010 and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit payments beginning in February 2011. These programs have reporting requirements for work activity and income, which can affect eligibility for benefits.

 

 

 

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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.