News and Press Releases

VANCOUVER MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO DEFRAUDING SOCIAL SECURITY
Man Faked Mental Retardation to Collect Disability Payments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 9, 2007

PETE COSTELLO, 28, of Vancouver, Washington pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Tacoma today to Social Security Fraud. COSTELLO admitted that from the age of eight he was coached by his mother, Rosie Costello, to appear developmentally disabled. PETE COSTELLO continued the act in front of Social Security evaluators long after he was an adult. According to the plea agreement, COSTELLO collected more than $59,000 in benefits from the time he was 18-years old, until his arrest in December 2006.

According to the plea agreement, Rosie Costello first made an application for her son to get Social Security Disability benefits in 1987. Rosie Costello coached her son on how to feign symptoms of mental retardation. Social Security started paying benefits to Rosie Costello for PETE COSTELLO’s disability in July of 1987. In August of 1997 as PETE COSTELLO approached his 18th birthday, the Social Security Administration began a benefits review. PETE COSTELLO was evaluated by two psychological professionals. At both evaluations COSTELLO again feigned symptoms of mental retardation. These symptoms included an inability to speak, sign his name, drive a vehicle, dress or care for himself. COSTELLO pretended to be unable to even take the test to evaluate his mental capacity. COSTELLO concealed from evaluators that he could do all those things and in fact was licensed to drive. After the first evaluation, the Social Security Administration moved to cancel PETE COSTELLO’s benefits. The Costello’s appealed and following the second exam the benefits were reinstated. The benefits were again reviewed in 2005, and in January 2006, PETE COSTELLO again appeared with his mother at the Social Security office in Vancouver, Washington and again feigned mental retardation. As court exhibits demonstrate, the next month, PETE COSTELLO appeared in District Court in Vancouver and represented himself regarding a traffic ticket for driving without proof of valid insurance. The ticket had been issued to COSTELLO as he drove away from the exam at the Social Security Office.

Rosie and PETE COSTELLO were indicted by a federal grand jury on September 13, 2006. They were arrested in Vancouver, Washington on December 4, 2006.

PETE COSTELLO is scheduled for sentencing by U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton on May 11, 2007. Rosie Costello is scheduled for trial on May 21, 2007.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Norman Barbosa and Michael Dion. For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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