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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 15, 2019

Former Social Security Administration Employee Admits Stealing Thousands of Dollars in Benefits

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey D. Hill (619) 546-7924

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – March 15, 2019

SAN DIEGO – Former U.S. Social Security Administration employee Nam-Phong Hung Le pleaded guilty in federal court today to two felony charges, admitting he stole tens of thousands of dollars in government benefits intended for the elderly and the disabled. 

During a hearing before U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino, Le acknowledged that while he was employed as a technical expert at the Social Security Administration, he set up a bank account in the name of two recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Le admitted that he knew both recipients had left the United States and were therefore ineligible for SSI, and that he took over the newly created bank account and personally received almost $30,000 in SSI payments in their names without their knowledge.  Le further admitted that his fraud cost the State of California over $20,000 in medical premium payments made to the SSI recipients after they had left the country, which made them ineligible for subsidized medical benefits.

In his plea agreement, Le, 37, admitted that he also exploited his position with the Social Security Administration to identify SSI recipients with “underpayments” – that is, individuals owed lump sum cash payments by the Social Security Administration.  Le admitted that he used the same fraudulent bank account that he had previously created to steal more than $15,000 in money owed to six other individuals, including one deceased person. Le admitted that he withdrew the money at ATM locations throughout Southern California and deposited the cash into his personal bank accounts.

“The taxpayer has a right to expect that public servants will perform their duties honorably, and that programs intended to assist our nation’s most vulnerable individuals will not be compromised from within,” said United States Attorney Robert Brewer. “The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to ensuring the integrity of Social Security Administration employees, and maintaining the public’s trust in one of our nation’s oldest and most important aid programs.” Brewer also praised the work of federal prosecutor Jeffrey D. Hill and investigators with the Social Security Administration – Office of the Inspector General.

“There is nothing more important to federal employment than public trust. When that trust is violated, it impacts the entire federal workforce and those they serve,” said Robb Stickley, the special agent in charge of Social Security's San Francisco Field Division, which is responsible for Southern California.

As a part of his plea agreement, Le agreed to pay full restitution to the Social Security Administration and the State of California’s Department of Health Care Services, and to a separate order of criminal forfeiture equal to the amount of money that Le stole from the Social Security Administration through his fraudulent bank account.  Le is scheduled to be sentenced on July 12, 2019.

DEFENDANT                       Case Number 19-cr-0532-JLS

Nam-Phong Hung Le              Chula Vista, CA                     Age: 37

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Social Security Fraud – Title 42, U.S.C., Section 1383a(a)(3)

Maximum penalty: 10 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, restitution.

Theft of Public Property – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 641

Maximum penalty: 10 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, restitution, forfeiture.

AGENCIES

Social Security Administration – Office of the Inspector General

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 
CAS19-0314-Le
Updated March 15, 2019