Seattle Area Man who Claimed Fictitious Twin Brother to Collect Additional Federal Benefits Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison
Illegally Collected Benefits including Housing and Food Assistance for more than 20 Years
A SeaTac man who used a second identity to defraud federal and state public assistance programs for more than 20 years was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 30 months in prison, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. TRAVIS EDWARD FISCHER, 49, lived with his girlfriend and three children in SeaTac, while also claiming benefits under the name Edward Travis Fischer in Seattle. By pretending to be two completely separate people, FISCHER was able to illegally collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits administered by the Social Security Administration, the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, and the Seattle Housing Authority. At the sentencing hearing, Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said FISCHER stole money that should have been used to help other needy beneficiaries. Chief Judge Martinez also added: “These crimes have a corrosive effect on the public’s confidence that these programs can be administered properly.”
According to records filed in the case and testimony at trial, FISCHER applied for Social Security disability benefits in his true name in August 1984, and collects them to the present day. In 1987, FISCHER also applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in the name of Edward Fischer, using a different Social Security number. Benefits were approved and paid to that identity beginning in 1987. In order to keep receiving benefits FISCHER had to make false representations to Social Security at various times over the last 25 years. FISCHER illegally collected more than $160,000 in benefits administered by the Social Security Administration.
The fraud did not stop with Social Security benefits but extended to food and medical assistance from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) totaling more than $154,000. Further, FISCHER defrauded the Seattle Housing Authority by using the false identity to claim a low income unit in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle while living in SeaTac with his girlfriend and children. From 1990 to 2013, FISCHER used the Queen Anne residence as a home base for his fictitious second identity, and as his address for separate bank accounts and benefits in the Edward name. The housing benefits totaled more than $152,000.
A case manager first noticed the fraud after finding both names in a DSHS database in 2011. When confronted, FISCHER first claimed he was the victim of identity theft, and then claimed that he had a twin brother who was also collecting benefits.
In all, FISCHER was convicted of seven counts of mail fraud, seven counts of theft of government funds, Social Security Fraud, Misuse of a Social Security Number, and two counts of making a false statement to the United States. He was ordered to pay $466,100 to the agencies he defrauded and will be on supervised release for three years following his prison term.
The case was jointly investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General (SSA-OIG), the Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of the Inspector General (HUD-OIG) and the DSHS Office of Fraud and Accountability.
The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin Diggs and Assistant United States Attorney J. Tate London. Mr. Diggs is an attorney with the Social Security Administration specially designated to prosecute fraud cases in federal court.