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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Puerto Rico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Seven Individuals Indicted for Social Security Fraud

The loss for SSA is $800,311.05; the loss for the Medicare Program is $220,975.17 and the total loss is $1,021,286.22

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – On September 29, 2022, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned seven separate indictments charging seven individuals with Social Security Fraud.

The Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the FBI, and the Puerto Rico Police Bureau are investigating the cases.

“The seven defendants arrested yesterday stole thousands of dollars in Social Security benefits that didn’t belong to them- they stole from the government, from victims, and even from victims that had passed away. We remain steadfast in our commitment to bring to justice unscrupulous individuals who illegally seek personal financial gain,” said W. Stephen Muldrow, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.

“These arrests represent our commitment to hold individuals responsible for defrauding Social Security programs. As evidenced by the more than one-million-dollar fraud loss in these collective cases, our collaborative efforts help to protect taxpayer funds and preserve much needed programs,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. “I thank the FBI, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, and the Puerto Rico Police Department for their assistance. I also appreciate the high level of support that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has shown us in seeking prosecution of those who commit Social Security fraud and I thank Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa Bonano for her outstanding work.”  

The defendants and the charges are:

  1. Sonia I. Vargas-Rodríguez was the owner and representative of Hogar Sendero de Amor, Inc. (HSA), an elderly care facility located in Mayagüez, PR. She had S.R. and R.F under her care. They both passed away in 2013 and 2014 respectively, and the defendant failed to report their deaths to the SSA and continued collecting their Social Security checks. In addition, the Puerto Rico Family Department closed HSA in June of 2014 due to claims of negligence and abuse.
  • Counts one and two- Wire Fraud. The defendant sent electronic transmissions of fraudulent Representative Payee Reports to SSA for S.R. and R.F.
  • Count three- Theft of Government Property. The defendant received $114,590.40 illegally from the SSA.
  1. Yahaita Cruz-Cintrón
  • Count one- Theft of Government Property. The defendant received $196,772.75 from the SSA illegally.
  • Count two- False Statement. The defendant provided false statements to the SSA in a Work Activity Report; said she worked in the Continental United States for eight years when the reality was that she didn’t work.
  • Count three- Health Care Fraud. The defendant received illegally $164,694.03 in Medicare Payments.
  1. Norberto Berríos-Rodríguez
    • Count one- Theft of Government Property. The defendant received $129,346.30 from the SSA illegally.
    • Count two- False Statement. The defendant provided false statements to the SSA in a Work Activity Report. He stated that he started working in August 2021 but, in fact, he had been working since before that date.
    • Count three- Concealment or Failure to Disclose Event to SSA. The defendant failed to disclose that he was working and continued receiving the SSA benefits.
    • Count four- Health Care Fraud. The defendant received illegally $33,608.00 in Medicare Payments.
  2. Pedro Medina-Medina
  • Count one- Theft of Government Property. The defendant received $159,254.40 from the SSA illegally.
  • Count two- False Statement. The defendant provided false statements to the SSA in a Work Activity Report. He stated that he only worked part-time for the years 2015 to 2017 knowing that he worked full-time since 2009.
  • Count three- Concealment or Failure to Disclose Event to SSA. The defendant failed to disclose that he was working and continued receiving the SSA benefits.
  • Count four- Health Care Fraud. The defendant received illegally $22,673.14 in Medicare Payments.
  1. Luis A. Soto-Torres
    • Count one- Theft of Government Property. The defendant knowingly and willfully embezzled, stole, purloined, and converted to his own use $122,483.90 from the SSA, which payments were made payable to M.S.C. and the defendant knew he was not entitled to receive.
  2. Marialices Cora-Martínez
    • Count one- Theft of Government Property. The defendant knowingly and willfully embezzled, stole, purloined, and converted to her own use $59,079.30 from the SSA, which payments were made payable to L.L.M. and the defendant knew she was not entitled to receive.
  3. Janice Rodríguez-Méndez
    • Count one- Theft of Government Property. The defendant knowingly and willfully embezzled, stole, purloined, and converted to her own use $18,784.00 from the SSA, which payments were made payable to A.R.L. and the defendant knew she was not entitled.

If convicted, the defendants face the following maximum penalties: 10 years of imprisonment for Theft of Government Property and Health Care Fraud; 5 years of imprisonment for False Statements and Concealment or Failure to Disclose Event to SSA; and 20 years of imprisonment for Wire Fraud. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

During fiscal year 2022, the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted for Social Security fraud a total of eight additional cases via Information, six of which have been sentenced, for a total loss amount of $529,334.80.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa D. Bonano-Rodríguez is prosecuting these cases.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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Topic(s): 
Elder Justice
Health Care Fraud
Updated October 5, 2022