Feds:  Dominican National Used Fraudulent U.S. Passport To Get Federal Benefits

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/11/09/feds-dominican-national-used-fraudulent-u-s-passport-to-get-federal-benefits/

A Dominican national who lives in Lawrence used a fraudulently obtained U.S. passport to try to get Social Security disability benefits he isn’t entitled to, federal prosecutors say.

Daniel Polonia Morillo, 57, also used fraudulently obtained documents to illegally obtain more than $40,000 in Medicaid benefits over a six-and-a-half-year period between March 2012 and October 2018 and more than $4,800 in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits during a three-and-a-half-year period between April 2015 and October 2018, according to a federal indictment made public Thursday in U.S. District Court in Boston.

Morillo was indicted on one count of making a false statement on an application for Social Security benefits, one count of making a false statement in an application and use of a passport, two counts of theft of public money, and one count of aggravated identity theft, according to a written statement from U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office in Boston.

A lawyer representing Morillo could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

If Morillo is convicted of aggravated identity theft, he faces a mandatory two-year-minimum prison sentence, which would run consecutively with any other prison sentence he receives if convicted on other counts.

According to court documents, a federal agent said a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits was made online on November 18, 2016 listing a name and date of birth for a man in his mid-50s living in Lawrence who had been born in Puerto Rico, which would make the man a U.S. citizen and thus theoretically eligible for federal benefits. The information corresponded to a man whose initials are M.C.C. who is not the defendant Morillo, the federal agent said.

The Social Security Administration followed up with a letter asking the applicant for a birth certificate or baptismal certificate plus a worker’s compensation award letter in order to process the claim.

On December 30, 2016, Morillo went to a Social Security office in Lawrence and presented documents pertaining to M.C.C., including a Puerto Rico driver’s license, Social Security card, U.S. passport, and U.S. passport card, according to the federal agent’s affidavit.

Because the Social Security employee was concerned about whether the applicant was who he said he was, the employee asked the applicant to return to the Social Security Administration office with more documentation, and on March 27, 2017, Morillo returned, this time with a Puerto Rico birth certificate and federal tax returns for 2013 through 2016, the federal agent said.

The Social Security Administration employee contacted the mother of the person whose documents Morillo presented.

“The true M.C.C.’s mother told the SSA employee that her son has been in jail for the past ten years at Complejo Correctional Las Cucharas, Ponce, Puerto Rico, and her son had previous issues with identity theft,” Social Security Administration special agent Kyle Zgraggen wrote in the affidavit, dated this past October 3.

That led the employee to refer the case for investigation.

The Social Security Administration sent notices by mail to the address in Lawrence that Morillo provided, and he submitted another application on September 25, 2017, again using M.C.C.’s name and information, according to the affidavit.

Morillo had previously applied for and gotten a U.S. passport in M.C.C.’s name, after applying at an office in San Juan, Puerto Rico on April 14, 2009 while using a Puerto Rico birth certificate and Puerto Rico driver’s license in M.C.C.’s name as identification. The application for the passport said the applicant was planning to travel to Boston in October 2009.

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles has a suspended driver’s license in M.C.C.’s name, which the federal agent said was obtained by a third individual who is neither Morillo nor M.C.C. in October 2001.

But when the driver’s license was renewed in 2012, Morillo was the one who went in and had his picture taken for it, according to the federal agent.

“I have compared the photograph of the individual associated with the March 16, 2012, renewed driver’s license with the photograph of the individual associated with the April 14, 2009, application for a United States Passport in the identity of M.C.C. and conclude that they depict the same person,” Zgraggen wrote.

The Social Security number used in the transactions is valid and belongs to M.C.C., the agent wrote.

In May 2017, federal agents learned that M.C.C. is serving a 44-year prison sentence in Puerto Rico.

The mother of M.C.C. told federal investigators in August 2017 that her son had never applied for a U.S. passport and had never lived in the continental United States, but that he had had trouble getting food stamps previously because when the two of them went to a welfare office in Puerto Rico they were shown a picture of Morillo and told that the person in the picture had already applied for food stamps in M.C.C.’s name.

In all, according to prosecutors, Morillo used M.C.C.’s identity to obtain $40,332.63 in benefits from Medicaid, which provides health insurance to poor people who are U.S. citizens; and $4,830 in food stamps, which provides assistance in buying food to poor people who are U.S. citizens.

In April 2018 and again this past August, federal investigators staked out the address in Lawrence that Morillo used to apply for Social Security and determined that he was living there, according to court documents.

In early October investigators applied for a search warrant and arrest warrant, and arrested Morillo. At a detention hearing on October 10, he was ordered detained until trial.

Available court documents do not indicate a scheduled upcoming court date.

A written statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office states that Morillo “will be subject to deportation proceedings.”

In an apparently unrelated case, four people who worked at the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles pleaded guilty in late 2017 and early 2018 to providing Massachusetts driver’s licenses to Dominican nationals who used fraudulently obtained documents from Puerto Rico residents to get them.

As reported by New Boston Post, illegal immigrants from the Dominican Republic paid schemers to get them Massachusetts driver’s licenses they weren’t able to obtain legally. People who did not work for the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles stole valid documents from Puerto Rico residents who are U.S. citizens who matched the physical descriptions of the illegal immigrants from the Dominican Republic, while Registry employees involved in the scheme used the fraudulently obtained documents to produce valid Massachusetts driver’s licenses for the illegal immigrants.