Worst Employee of The Month

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Thief holding a social security card.

One would think that a former government employee would know better than to break the law. This wasn’t the case for Sean Okrzesik, 34, of Syracuse, N.Y., who recently pled guilty to charges of theft of government property and aggravated identity theft.

The Syracuse resident admitted to using the names and Social Security numbers of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries, or their representative payees, in order to steal SSI benefit payments. What makes matters worse is that Okrzesik was still working in the Syracuse District Office of the Social Security Administration (SSA) when he committed this fraud. (Needless to say, he did not make employee of the month.)

The SSI program is designed to help the elderly and people with disabilities, or with little or no income, cover the costs of basic needs. (It is not intended to help fraudsters bankroll their personal expenses.) From February 2020 through February 2021, Okrzesik defrauded the SSI program by opening bank accounts using the names and Social Security numbers of various beneficiaries or their representative payees.

Once these accounts were created, Okrzesik diverted SSI benefit payments intended for these beneficiaries into the fraudulent accounts, which he then used to pay for personal expenses. Okrzesik’s purchases included video gaming equipment, a custom suit, jewelry, airline tickets to the Caribbean, and bets on an online gambling site. (I think we can all guess the over-under on the odds he goes to jail.)

The total amount of SSI benefits stolen by Okrzesik was $103,798.77. (Is that the price one’s loyalty goes for nowadays?)  When sentenced in New York on March 16, 2022, Okrzesik faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years for theft of government property. Okrzesik also faces a mandatory term of two years in federal prison, which must run consecutively to the sentence imposed on the other counts of conviction, for aggravated identity theft.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Former Syracuse-Based Social Security Administration Employee Pleads Guilty to Theft of Government Property and Aggravated Identity Theft,” published on November 18, 2021.

SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – Sean Okrzesik, age 34, of Syracuse, pled guilty today to charges of theft of government property and aggravated identity theft.

The announcement was made by United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman and John F. Grasso, 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.