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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 28, 2019

Poplar Grove Man Sentenced to 21 Months in Prison for Theft of More Than $160,000 in Social Security Benefits

ROCKFORD — A Poplar Grove man was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Kapala for theft of government funds. 

JONATHAN GORZELA, 56, was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Gorzela, who pleaded guilty to the charge on Oct. 12, 2018, was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $160,858.

The sentencing was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Tracey Thanos, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General in Chicago. The Illinois Department of Rehabilitative Services assisted in the investigation. The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret J. Schneider.

According to a written plea agreement, between April 1991 and December 2015, Gorzela received disability benefits from funds administered by the Social Security Administration that he was not entitled to receive.  Gorzela began receiving Social Security Income disability benefits in July 1984 after he sustained a gunshot wound to his back that left him a paraplegic.  Gorzela was required to immediately report to the SSA any changes in income, family size or composition, family income, benefits from other sources, improvement in medical condition, or return to work.  In multiple documents submitted to the SSA, Gorzela acknowledged he understood his responsibility to report any such changes to the SSA.  Gorzela married in April 1991 and from that date through October 2015 did not disclose his marriage, nor the fact that his spouse was employed throughout the time of the marriage, or his spouse’s income. 

In February 1998, Gorzela used false documentation to obtain a second Social Security number under another name.  From 2000 through 2014 Gorzela obtained various jobs using the second social security number and the other name.  None of the income obtained from that employment was reported to the SSA.  As a result of Gorzela’s failure to report his marriage, his wife’s income, and the income he earned using his second identity to the SSA, Gorzela was overpaid approximately $160,858 in SSI disability benefits.

Gorzela also used his second identity to falsely obtain payment from the Illinois Dept. of Rehabilitative Services for the use of a paid personal assistant for which he qualified due to his injury.  Between April 2006 and June 2008, Gorzela billed the IDRS approximately $28,566 for services purportedly provided to him under his alias identity.  In addition, Gorzela billed the IDRS for services purportedly provided to the defendant by his son during the time periods that his son was incarcerated and during periods that Gorzela was working full time.  Those billings resulted in the IDRS paying the defendant’s son approximately $21,382 for services that were not performed.  In total, Gorzela caused the IDRS to overpay $49,948 for services that were not performed.

Topic(s): 
Health Care Fraud
Identity Theft
Updated February 28, 2019