News and Press Releases

Birmingham Man Sentenced for Stealing Identities and Social Security Benefits

March 18, 2011

BIRMINGHAM – A federal judge Thursday sentenced a Birmingham man to more than three years in prison for a scheme that employed a telephone scam to obtain personal identification information, which was then used to steal Social Security benefits, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, Special Agent in Charge Guy Fallen.

U.S. District Judge Virginia E. Hopkins sentenced JOHN EDWARD HERRING, 37, to three years and four months in prison for theft of government property and aggravated identity theft. The judge ordered Herring to pay more than $41,000 in restitution to the Social Security Administration and to forfeit more than $26,000 to the government as proceeds of illegal activity.

The total jail time and restitution included Herring’s sentence for the property and identity theft charges to which he pled guilty in October, along with the penalty imposed when Judge Hopkins on Thursday revoked Herring’s probation in a similar case from 2007.

According to Herring’s October plea agreement with the government, Herring was part of a group that, from about March 2009 to July 2010, carried out its theft scheme as follows:

A member of the group would telephone recipients of Social Security benefits and pose as an employee of a utility company. The caller would claim there was a problem with the person’s utility account, then solicit personal identification information, claiming the information was needed in order to resolve the account problem.

Once the identifying information was obtained, a member of the group would use it to open a special Social Security Administration bank account that allowed for benefits to be deposited electronically. When establishing the account, members of Herring’s group would provide a mailing address where the bank would send a debit card for the fraudulent account.

Over the course of the scheme, the group opened at least a dozen of the fraudulent electronic accounts. Harris used several of the account debit cards to withdraw cash and to pay utility bills at the Jefferson County apartment of one of Herring’s relatives, where Herring was residing at the time.

The investigation in this case involved several federal law enforcement agencies that were led by an agent of the Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa K. Atwood prosecuted the case.




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