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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Alabama

Friday, April 12, 2013

Federal Judge Sentences Former Social Security Employee To Nearly Six Years In Prison For Fraud And Identity Theft

BIRMINGHAM – A federal judge this week sentenced a former Social Security Administration service representative to 70 months in prison for access-device fraud and aggravated identity theft, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, Special Agent in Charge Guy Fallen.

In imposing the nearly six-year sentence on MANUEL "Trey" CHANEY III, U.S. District Judge C. Lynwood Smith explained that the scheme was sophisticated and "far flung."

Chaney, 29, of Birmingham, worked for the Social Security Administration in its Bessemer office when he conducted the fraud between January 2010 and November 2010. He pleaded guilty last year to one count of access-device fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft for using bank routing and account numbers he took from Social Security records to access and steal money from other people's accounts. Chaney used Internet-based payment systems to electronically steal from those accounts and pay his own debts. He made more than 150 of the fraudulent online payments that affected more than 50 target accounts during the 10-month period.

The total value of the transactions exceeded $325,000. Among the creditors that Chaney paid were Alabama Power, Capital One Bank, Citibank, Discover Card, GE Money Bank, GMAC/Ally Bank, HSBC Bank, JP Morgan Chase Bank, and T-Mobile. Chaney must pay $40,857 restitution to his victims, and must forfeit $175,559 to the government as proceeds of his crime.

According to court records, Chaney carried out his fraud as follows:

He used his access to SSA records to identify recently deceased recipients of Social Security benefits from across the southeastern United States. From that pool of individuals, Chaney narrowed the field to those who had been receiving direct deposit of their benefits, as opposed to a paper check, before their death. From that group, Chaney narrowed his target group further by isolating individuals who had received direct deposit of benefits into an account at Wachovia/Wells Fargo Bank, where Chaney conducted his own banking. These became the target accounts Chaney accessed and used to make online payments for his vehicles, utility bills and credit cards, one of which had been used to purchase furniture for Chaney's new home.

The Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa K. Atwood prosecuted the case.

Updated March 19, 2015