This blog series will be dedicated to telling the real-world stories of the most severe cases of stolen identities – and just how impactful these crimes can be on organizations, individuals, and families. This week’s recap shows how a repeat felon, twice deported from the U.S., was able to steal $361,000 of U.S. government benefit money by using a stolen identity – for 37 years!
How the ID Theft Started
Andres Anduaga entered the United States illegally in 1980, using a fake birth certificate to apply for a Social Security number, California driver’s license, and U.S. passport. He assumed the identity of Abraham Riojos, a now 60-year-old, Texas-born man who lives in Florida. Today, Anduaga is 66 years old. We can assume that back when he initiated the crime, Riojos was 23 and Anduaga was 29.
The Impact of a Stolen Identity
Using this stolen identity, Anduaga successfully applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. He received monthly payments totaling $244,441 between 1989 and 2016. He was also able to qualify for Medi-Cal health coverage and food stamps, an additional $116,467 in unqualified government benefits.
To Catch an ID Thief
Investigators uncovered the identity theft in 2015 after a routine review to see if Anduaga still qualified to receive disability payments. When they visited the address listed for his fake identity, the landlord told them “Riojos” actually lived in Mexico. Border patrol records revealed that the man would cross back and forth several times a week – likely to collect his benefit checks.
When authorities looked into his criminal record, Anduaga had a lengthy background. His rap sheet associated him with 21 different names and six different dates of birth. The crimes he’d been charged with included a firearms violation, forgery, cocaine possession, and multiple DUIs.
The real Abraham Riojos had no idea that his identity had been used for nearly 40 years.
Real Consequences for ID Thieves
Anduaga is required to pay back the full amount of government funds he fraudulently received and faces twelve years behind bars along with additional fines. Sentencing was slated for May 29th, 2018, but no news has come out yet regarding the status. We will continue to monitor this case.
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