Former social security employee sentenced to two years in prison for accepting bribes for unlawful benefits
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 12, 2011
NEWARK, N.J. – A former employee of the U.S. Social Security Administration Office in Jersey City, N.J., was sentenced today to 24 months in prison for accepting bribes to classify people for disability payments to which they were not entitled, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman announced.
Margarita Diaz, 40, of Bayonne, N.J., previously pleaded guilty before Judge Katharine S. Hayden to an Information charging her with one count of bribery of a public official. Judge Hayden also imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed and statements made in court:
Diaz was employed as a claims representative at a Social Security Administration (SSA) office in Jersey City. As part of her duties, Diaz was granted access to the SSA computer system to process applications for Social Security disability benefits. Because it may take as long as six months before a decision is made by the SSA on whether an applicant qualifies for disability payments, the SSA will authorize immediate benefits, called “presumptive disability payments,” to individuals who meet SSA’s criteria and suffer from a severe disabling condition.
In order for an application to receive presumptive disability payments, an SSA claims representative must determine whether the applicant is suffering from a qualifying severe condition. Diaz admitted that from August 2008 to January 2009, she processed applications for presumptive disability payments for individuals who did not qualify in exchange for cash payments. In all, she took approximately $25,000 in illegal payments for herself and others.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Hayden ordered Diaz to serve two years of supervised release.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents with the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, New York Field Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Ryan, with the investigation leading to today’s sentence.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Magdo of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.
Defense counsel: John Yauch Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark