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Press Release

Federal jury finds Rio Rancho man guilty of theft and making false statements in Social Security scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Alexander M.M. Uballez, United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, announced that a federal jury on Dec. 16 returned a guilty verdict on James Anthony Sandoval, 57, of Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The jury convicted Sandoval on 33 counts of theft of government property and one count each of making false statements and false statements on a Social Security form.

Sandoval became entitled to receive disability benefits in 2008. In 2016 and 2019, he reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that he had not worked since becoming ill in 2007. He also reported having difficulty performing simple daily tasks such as any physical activity and engaging in social interactions.

On Feb. 19, 2020, Sandoval was interviewed by the Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) Unit at the SSA office in Rio Rancho. During the interview, Sandoval reported he had not worked since 2002 or 2003, and he used an oxygen tank at all times. Sandoval refused to answer any questions regarding his business and denied making a profit or working at a jewelry business.

On March 15, 2021, Sandoval signed and dated an SSA Work Activity Report form in which he stated he was not able to work and had not received any income other than his SSA Disability Insurance benefits. The CDI investigation, however, uncovered facts contrary to these statements.  Records from the New Mexico Office of the Secretary of State show that Traditions Past and Present, Inc., is an active, for-profit corporation. The business was incorporated in 2016 with Sandoval as the registered agent, director, director of operations and incorporator. The official address for the business was listed as Sandoval’s current residential address. According to bank records, Sandoval’s jewelry business was also generating a profit.

During the trial, the jury heard evidence including observations of agents and videos of Sandoval at the business location where he was working and identified himself as the owner. Other evidence included reports and photographs of Sandoval working at a vendor booth for his jewelry business at a trade show in Texas. During these observations, some of which lasted approximately an hour, Sandoval did not utilize an oxygen tank and indicated he had attended multiple shows across the United States promoting his business and selling his jewelry.

The prosecution also presented bank records of Traditions Past and Present and Sandoval’s personal bank records from 2014 to 2019. Those records included several transactions from the jewelry business to Sandoval’s personal accounts, all of which were controlled by Sandoval. According to bank records, Sandoval was the only known withdrawer from the accounts.

Sandoval will remain on conditions of release pending sentencing, which has not been scheduled. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

The SSA Office of the Inspector General Albuquerque CDI Unit investigated this case with assistance from the New Mexico Disability Determination Services, the New Mexico Office of Attorney General and SSA. Assistant United States Attorneys Raquel Ruiz-Velez and Kristopher N. Houghton are prosecuting the case.

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Updated December 20, 2022

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 22-282