After more than three decades of impersonating an American citizen and stealing more than $350,000 in government benefits, a Mexican national has been sentenced to federal prison.
Tijuana resident Andres Avelino Anduaga was sentenced in San Diego Friday to 37 months in federal prison after admitting he stole from federal, state and local agencies while faking his citizenship, KSWB Fox 5 San Diego reported.
He was also ordered by the federal judge to repay $360,908.85 in restitution to the Social Security Administration, the California Department of Health Care Services and the county of San Diego.
Anduaga was already a convicted felon when, in 1980, he got a California driver’s license and a Social Security card using a birth certificate belonging to a U.S. citizen, according to KSWB. He spent the next 22 years using this stolen identity to commit a variety of crimes, court documents revealed.
“This is one of the longest frauds, and one of the highest-dollar losses, if not the highest, that I’ve ever seen,” Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey D. Hill, told The San Diego Union-Tribune. Hill was assigned to investigate fraud cases. “It’s also the longest custodial sentence (for Social Security fraud) at least since I arrived in 2014.”
Anduaga used the false identity to apply for disability benefits from the SSA in 1989 and collected nearly $250,000 in Social Security benefits through 2016, KSWB reported, citing prosecutors. This enabled Anduaga to obtain MediCal health benefits that he was not eligible for and caused more than $100,000 of loss to the state of California, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Despite having his Social Security terminated in 2016, Anduaga signed up for CalFresh/Supplemental Nutrition benefits, according to court records, and he got those benefits right until his arrest in November.
U.S. District Judge John Houston sentenced the 66-year-old,who had used more than 40 aliases, for theft of public property and being in the U.S. illegally. But prosecutors are still not sure if his age is accurate or that Anduaga is even the defendant’s true name, according to the Union-Tribune.
Anduaga admitted that event though he was deported in 1994 and 2000, he was able to return and travel freely between the United States and Mexico using a U.S. passport obtained using the same stolen identity.
“What this guy was doing was ridiculous,” Hill told the Union-Tribune.
While Anduaga committed three felonies after 1980, when he assumed the stolen identity, prosecutors found he had previously committed another felony and 17 misdemeanors for non-violent offenses since 1973.
Investigators discovered his nearly four-decade-long scam after another person in Oceanside tried to use the same false identity Anduaga had stolen in 1983.
“He cost taxpayers lots of money,” Hill said. “And those funds were stolen from the most needy.”
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