En español | A 79-year-old New York man who for more than a decade collected Social Security benefits under two different names raked in $31,362 in benefits he did not deserve, authorities said.
Thomas Henry Baxter, of Schuylerville, New York, admitted to the felony crime in a plea agreement signed on Oct. 5. He pleaded guilty to one count of Social Security fraud, which has a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Baxter also agreed to being ordered to pay restitution to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Two names, two Social Security numbers
In the plea deal, Baxter acknowledged that he applied for a Social Security number under his own name in July 1956, more than 64 years ago, when he would have been in his mid-teens. After he hit his 30s, in August 1971, he applied for another Social Security number under an alias, Mark Anthony.
Fast-forward 37 years. While both working and collecting Social Security benefits under his real name, Baxter applied in September 2008 for Social Security retirement benefits using his alias and the second Social Security number. In 2008, he would have been in his late 60s.
Under the alias, in September 2008 Baxter was paid benefits retroactive to March 2008 — and the money kept rolling in until his second identity was discovered. How that happened is not divulged in the court filings. The benefits to which he was not entitled were suspended in June 2019, more than 11 years later.
Concealed second identity
"The defendant knowingly concealed and failed to disclose the existence of his second identity, from Sept. 22, 2008 until June 24, 2019, in order to fraudulently secure the payment of Social Security benefits to which he would have not been entitled had he disclosed both his identities to the Social Security Administration,” the plea agreement says.
Baxter will be sentenced on Feb. 23 in U.S. District Court in Binghamton, New York. His attorney, Peter J. Moschetti Jr., said he could not comment because the case is pending. The case is being investigated by the Social Security Administration's watchdog arm, the Office of Inspector General.
"Fraud committed against the Social Security Administration is a theft from every American,” said Antoinette T. Bacon, the acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of New York, where the case is being prosecuted. “Cases like this one underline our commitment to investigate and prosecute those who steal from Social Security, whose programs are funded by hardworking men and women."
In a separate case in upstate New York, a 74-year-old woman with two Social Security numbers is facing federal charges with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
She is Santa Sanabria, also known as Santa Cordero, of Gansevoort, New York.
She was arrested Tuesday after being indicted for allegedly taking Social Security retirement benefits in one name and at various times taking Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits under both names. SSI payments are needs-based benefits for people including the elderly, disabled and blind. Sanabria is accused of accepting $11,740 she didn’t deserve because she withheld key facts about her circumstances from SSA.