SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Eric Lemoyne Willis, 46, of West Sacramento, was sentenced today to four years in prison for conspiracy to defraud the United States, theft of government property and aggravated identity theft, a announced US Attorney Phillip A. Talbert.
According to court documents, Willis and his co-defendants, Darron Dimitri Ross, 36, of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Joshua Bilal George, 39, of San Diego, conspired to steal public money from the Social Security Administration ( SSA). Willis worked as an SSA operations supervisor in Sacramento and Lodi from 2015 until his departure in January 2018. During this time, Willis used his authority as an SSA employee to access the confidential Social Security records of numerous beneficiaries of social security. These records contained personally identifiable information (PII), including names, addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth, account numbers, family information, and benefit payment amounts. Willis would seek PII for beneficiaries who used direct deposit for large benefit payments. Willis then gave this PII to Ross who resided in North Carolina.
Ross and George’s roles in these crimes included calling numerous SSA field offices across the country and using stolen PII to impersonate beneficiaries. Ross also opened at least 44 online bank accounts under fraudulent identities to receive misappropriated SSA benefit payments. If Ross was able to convince an SSA representative that he was the beneficiary, he would request that the beneficiary’s direct deposit account be replaced with one of the conspirators’ fraudulent accounts. The SSA then proceeded to deposit the benefit payments into the fraudulent account. The conspirators then withdrew the funds from ATMs and spent additional funds using debit cards associated with the accounts. Ross also transferred some of the stolen proceeds to Willis for his participation in these crimes. After the fraud was detected, the SSA stopped filing benefit payments.
The SSA has identified more than 200 beneficiaries nationwide who were targeted by these crimes, and it suffered at least $696,912 in fraud losses caused by the defendants’ offenses. The defendants spent the proceeds of their crimes on, among other things, trips to Las Vegas and luxury items, including Rolex watches. At sentencing, the court ordered Willis to pay full restitution to the SSA.
“Mr. Willis abused his position in the SSA for personal gain, setting up an elaborate scheme with co-conspirators who defrauded those most in need of more than $690,000 in security benefits This sentence holds him accountable for his flagrant criminal acts,” said Dawn Nolan, Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Division, Office of Inspector General’s Social Security Administration. “I thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecuting this individual and protecting the integrity of the SSA’s programs.”
This case is the product of an investigation by the Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General, the Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Robert J. Artuz is prosecuting the case.
Ross and George pleaded guilty to similar charges and are expected to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb in August 2022. They face up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud and up to five years in prison for conspiracy to defraud the United States. States. Ross also faces a mandatory two-year prison sentence for aggravated identity theft, consecutive to any other sentence handed down. Each of these offenses is also punishable by a maximum fine of $250,000. Actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of all applicable statutory factors and federal sentencing guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.