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Johnson Responds to New Indictments for Disability Fraud in Puerto Rico

January 15, 2015

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. attorney’s office in Puerto Rico announced additional indictments based on work begun over five years ago to bring fraudsters to justice.
Upon hearing this news, Subcommittee on Social Security Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) stated:

“Today’s arrests in Puerto Rico are yet further proof that the disability program is plagued by widespread fraud. While it is critical that those who committed fraud are held accountable, the bottom line is that success is not discovering massive fraud schemes— success is preventing fraud in the first place. That is the only way hardworking taxpayers’ dollars can be protected.

“As chairman, I’ve already asked Inspector General O’Carroll for a top-to-bottom review of the disability program. I’ve also asked Acting Commissioner Colvin for her plan to do better when it comes to preventing fraud. With the disability program going insolvent in 2016, it is more important than ever to stop fraud that is costing the program precious taxpayer dollars and undermining public confidence in the program.

“As chairman I will continue to work with my colleagues to keep the disability program strong for those who truly need it and the recently passed House Social Security rule is a step in the right direction.”

Among the new revelations brought to light today, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Social Security Administration (SSA) revealed:

  • The overall fraud loss from this scheme is now estimated to be over $100 million. They expect this investigation will result in a projected lifetime savings to Social Security and taxpayers of more than $160 million.
  • This investigation dates back to November 2009, when the SSA forwarded an allegation to its OIG involving suspicious Disability Insurance benefit claims filed in Puerto Rico that involved nearly identical medical documentation.
  • In August 2013, 74 people, including four medical professionals and a non-attorney claimant representative, were indicted and arrested for their involvement in this disability fraud scheme.
  • As of today, 39 of these defendants have been sentenced, receiving probation terms of one to three years, and, in some cases, 30 days in prison. All those sentenced or issued pre-trial diversion agreements will make full restitution to the SSA. Court-ordered restitution for these defendants totals $1,169,034.
  • Today, the U.S. attorney’s office in Puerto Rico announced the indictments of an additional 40 people, including a psychiatrist, for their alleged involvement in this conspiracy. As of this morning, 39 of 40 defendants have been apprehended. These indictments and arrests are a result of continued work by the SSA OIG, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the Puerto Rico Police Department as part of the overall investigation.