Claiming Fraud

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Social Security cards with cash and benefit amount numbers

A former claims specialist for the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Office of International Operations misused his position and access to SSA systems to misdirect $236,000 in benefits to his own personal bank accounts. Using fictitious identities and identities of real people, Cheikh Ahmet Tidiane Cisse, 45, of Baltimore, Md., filed fraudulent claims for Social Security Benefits, and spent the undeserved funds on himself. Because illegal actions have consequences, Cisse eventually pleaded guilty to Social Security fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Part of Cisse’s job at the SSA was to review identity documents for claimants who lived abroad. That meant that he had access to passports, marriage certificates, and identity cards. (Sounds like the perfect identity theft storm.) Because Cisse was an opportunist, he used this personal information to create new, fake identities within the SSA’s database. (Those fake identities were issued real social security numbers.)

Cisse got creative and used these fake identities to file fraudulent claims for divorced spouse survivor’s benefits against deceased individuals. (That sounds complicated.) He directed those benefit payments to debit cards or bank accounts he opened in the names of the fake identities.

Cisse used his home address, and also an address in Quebec, Canada to receive fake social security cards and the benefit payments.

Cisse submitted at least nine fraudulent claims using stolen and fictitious identities. This caused SSA to pay approximately $87,000 in false claims through direct deposit, issue around $46,000 in checks, and authorize approximately $103,000 in claims that were stopped before an actual payment was issued. This crafty fraudster actually received and spent $82,047 before the government put a halt to the scheme.

Cisse’s plea agreement detailed an instance where the SSA stopped a payment of $10,734 for one of the suspended payments. He used his position to call the agency to falsely explain that the purported beneficiary had called to ask where the payment was. Cisse caused the SSA payment center to issue the back payment through direct deposit. He ended up receiving $25,916. (Apparently, he withdrew the funds in cash and went on a shopping spree.)

The shopping spree and scheme eventually came to a bitter end for the former government employee. When Cisse heads to court, he’ll be facing a maximum of 10 years in federal prison for Social Security fraud and two years for aggravated identity theft. Cisse is also required to pay restitution of $83,247 and he must forfeit $30,000 seized from his home. And let’s not forget a money judgment for $51,107.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a press release, “Former Social Security Employee Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges for a Scheme to Obtain Over $236,000 in Social Security Benefits by Allegedly Submitting Fictitious Claims,” dated January 15, 2021.

Baltimore, Maryland – Cheikh Ahmet Tidiane Cisse, age 45, of Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to federal charges of theft of government property and aggravated identity theft, in connection with a scheme in which Cisse filed fraudulent claims for Social Security benefits using fictitious identities and the identities of actual individuals, and attempted to collected over $236,000.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur and Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the Social Security Administration.

 

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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.