An engineer employed with technology manufacturing companies in the Vancouver, Washington area was indicted today by a federal grand jury for a scheme to collect disability benefits under his own identity while working under a false identity, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. STEVEN LYNN ROSS, 67, is accused of stealing more than $360,000 in government benefits. ROSS possessed identity documents he had fraudulently obtained in the names of children who died in the 1950s and 1960s. ROSS was arrested earlier this month and will be arraigned on the indictment in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on October 29, 2018.
According to records filed in the case, in 1987 ROSS assumed the identities of at least two deceased children in order to open Social Security accounts in their names. One of the children had died in a car accident as a toddler, the other died in a plane crash in 1968 at age thirteen. ROSS used these identities in various ways, obtaining drivers licenses, bank accounts and passports in various names. In 2001, ROSS began collecting Social Security Disability payments in his true name, saying he was unable to work due to physical ailments. In fact, at the same time that he was collecting disability payments, ROSS continued to work under one of the identities he had stolen. In this way, ROSS collected more than $360,000 in disability payments even though he was not disabled under program rules.
The Washington State Department of Licensing began investigating when facial recognition software flagged that ROSS’s image appeared in more than one driver’s license photo. The case was turned over to the Social Security Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG) and U.S. State Department Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). The DSS determined that ROSS had obtained passports in his own name as well as the names of the two deceased children, and that all three passports contain ROSS’ picture. Between 1998 and 2011, ROSS traveled out of the country 22 times with one of the stolen identities, even as he also traveled internationally using his own name and passport as well.
ROSS is charged with two counts of wire fraud, five counts of theft of public funds, one count of access device fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The other federal felonies are punishable by up to ten years in prison. Aggravated identity theft is punishable by a mandatory two-year term to run consecutive to any sentence imposed on the other counts of conviction.
The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case was investigated by the Social Security Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG), the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), and the Washington State Department of Licensing License Integrity Unit (DOL/LIU).
The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin Diggs. Mr. Diggs is an attorney with the Social Security Administration specially designated to prosecute benefit fraud cases in federal court.
Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Public Affairs Officer Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov.