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SSA employee charged with extortion

For Ohio residents who have limited incomes and other complicating disabilities, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) represents a valuable benefit they can receive from the federal government. The program provides financial assistance to those with low-incomes, are age 65, or who may have other disabilities or blindness.

Qualifying for SSI benefits is different from qualifying for SSDI, because SSI is tied to income levels and other financial resources that may be available to a person. Needless to say, most applicants tend to have a compelling need for the SSI benefits. And most employees of the Social Security Administration (SSA) understand this and do their best to help SSI applicants submit their claims so they can obtain their benefits.

Disappointingly, one SSA claims representative in Memphis, used his position with the agency to attempt to extort money from SSI applicants, demanding a "processing fee" for their claims.

This is blatantly illegal and the U.S. Attorney's Office has indicted the man on two charges of extortion and two charges of bribery. The penalties, as you would expect, are severe for this type of fraud. He could be sentenced for up to 20 years in federal prison for the extortion charges and 15 years for the bribery charge.

In addition, he could be fined up to $250,000 for each count of the indictment. He would phone applicants after they received their benefit payment and demand this "processing fee." The Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General suspects he may have used this scheme to obtain funds from other applicants.

Source: Disabilityscoop.com "SSI 'Processing Fee' Prompts Federal Charges," Shaun Heasley, September 27, 2013

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