A San Diego man pleaded guilty in court Thursday to stealing nearly $272,000 in Social Security retirement benefits intended for his father.
Abel Jose Perez' father Angel Perez-Barajas died back in 1997, but he retained exclusive access to a bank account belonging to his deceased parents, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.
"We won't let thieves get away with these crimes, even if they have untraditional methods," said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson, in a statement.
Perez admitted that he continued to take money from the bank account for more than 16 years, in a hearing before the U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew G. Schopler. He also acknowledged that he never informed the Social Security Administration (SSA) of his father's death.
"The only difference between this and armed robbery is the gun," said Robinson. "The defendant stole hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the ultimate victims are those who pay into Social Security expecting to receive benefits down the road."
The SSA never received a request from Perez to terminate the monthly direct deposit of his father's retirement benefits, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.
"We will continue to assist the U.S. Attorney's Office in bringing violators to justice," said Robb Stickley, the Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Division, which is responsible for Southern California, in a statement.
He exploited the monthly deposits from August 1997 to February 2014. Perez said he knew the benefits should have stopped, but continued using the money anyway, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.
Perez agreed to pay back all the money he took from the SSA account, as part of his plea agreement. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible fine more than twice the amount of the money he gained from his crime.
His sentencing is set for Aug. 7 before U.S. District Court Judge William Q. Hayes.