A former Social Security Administration employee has been indicted on charges that he used his position to defraud approximately 26 aliens of approximately $103,350 by enticing them with false promises of student visas to study massage therapy according to U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie.
A federal grand jury indicted Waldo Luis Miranda, 53, of Plainsboro, New Jersey on two counts of wire fraud, three counts of bribery and one count of using of a computer to further a fraud.
Miranda, who was charged in a criminal Complaint in September 2006, remains free on a $25,000 bond. The Justice Department expects he will be arraigned on the charges in the Indictment.
The Indictment describes a scheme under which Miranda used his position as a claims representative for the Social Security Administration ("SSA") Elizabeth and Parsippany district offices to identify aliens, or friends and family members of aliens, and then promised to secure student visas to study massage therapy for them in exchange for payment of several thousand dollars.
According to the Indictment, between September 2005 and August 2006, Miranda purported to be the president of a non-profit organization called Eco-Health, Inc.
Miranda allegedly made false promises to the aliens and/or their family members, who were interested in obtaining legal status in the U.S., that he would help them secure student visas to study at a massage school in New Jersey. The Indictment alleges that after Miranda would receive payments of several thousands of dollars from a victim, he would stop returning their phone calls and never rendered the services promised.
In one instance, according to the Indictment, a victim identified as E.B. paid Miranda $80,000 based on Miranda’s false promises to obtain student visas for E.B. and 15 family members in Ecuador. The indictment alleges that Miranda deposited the payments from his victims into an account in the name of Eco-Health and then spend the money on personal expenses such as restaurant meals, haircuts, gasoline and dental work.
Miranda was placed on indefinite suspension from the SSA in October 2006.
The Indictment also charges Miranda with taking bribes from three individuals in exchange for issuing them social security cards and numbers. The Indictment alleges that Miranda knew the individuals were not eligible to receive social security cards and numbers but processed their applications in exchange for cash payments.
Miranda is also charged with illegally accessed his SSA computer to increase Supplemental Security Income benefits to the disabled child of one victim identified as S.G., so that S.G. could pay him $3,400 in connection with the scheme.
"While the vast majority of the 65,000 Social Security employees are dedicated, honest and hardworking, there are a few unscrupulous individuals who attempt to abuse their position of trust and defraud Social Security and its programs," said Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Ryan of the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General. "We vigorously investigate instances of potential fraud involving Social Security employees," added Ryan.
In its press release. the US Attorney’s office noted that all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If he should be found guilty of these charges, counts One and Two of the indictment, which charge wire fraud, each carry a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross loss to any victim, or twice the gross gain to himself. Each of the three counts of bribery carries a maximum statutory penalty of 15 years in prison and a fine of three times the value of the bribes. Count Six, which charges use of computers in furtherance of a fraud, carries a statutory maximum of 5 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.