Last week it emerged that a group of Philadelphians participated in one of the more horrific instances of disability benefits fraud that we have come across. We have seen criminals steal benefits by failing to report the death of family members and by lying on official Social Security forms. Less often do we see people take advantage of the disabled to steal their benefits outright, but it is an unfortunate reality that continues to occur.
The Philadelphia crime unraveled when a building landlord found three men and a woman, all of whom suffered from severe mental disabilities, in a 15 by 15 foot room that someone had chained shut from the outside. One of the victims was chained to a boiler, and the room was too small for them to even stand up. The disabled victims were locked in the room in squalor with only some dogs and each other for company. The only food in the room was a bottle of orange juice.
Fortunately, it appears that the victims will be okay. Ranging in age from the late 20s to the early 40s, they had the mental capacity of 10-year-olds, police told reporters after the four received treatment in a hospital. They were malnourished, but were not suffering from any other physical problems. Authorities think that at least two had been in captivity for 11 years.
Police suspect that a convicted murderer had been posing as the four’s caregiver. She used them to file for Social Security disability benefits, which she then collected on behalf of the disabled individuals. Police arrested two others in connection with their involvement in this crime. They are facing a range of charges, including kidnapping, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and theft of federal money.
What could have been the Social Security Administration’s role in preventing this atrocity? Should certain applicant characteristics (like a convicted murderer taking care of the applicant, for example) automatically raise red flags?
Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability lawyers