CHICAGO — A former claims specialist for the U.S. Social Security Administration was sentenced today to four years in federal prison for pocketing $732,382 in fraudulent benefits.
ANNE AROSTE worked as a claims specialist at the SSA’s field office in Aurora. Aroste was responsible for processing applications for Social Security benefits via the agency’s electronic records system. From 2013 to 2018, Aroste used the Social Security earnings records of deceased workers to create fraudulent applications for benefits. She then used her employee credentials to approve the applications and route the payments to bank accounts she controlled.
Aroste used the fraud proceeds to make credit card payments, mortgage payments, and car loan payments, including payments for a 2015 Mercedes-Benz sport-utility vehicle. She also used fraud proceeds to purchase clothing, groceries, jewelry, and cosmetics.
Aroste, 42, of Montgomery, Ill., pleaded guilty last year to charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. U.S. District Judge Manish S. Shah imposed the sentence in federal court in Chicago.
The sentence was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General of Social Security; and Patrick S. Mills, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service Chicago Field Office.
“In committing this crime, Aroste betrayed the public trust and stole from a program designed to assist the most vulnerable members of our community,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared C. Jodrey argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum. “Viewing her access to sensitive personal information as an opportunity to enrich herself, Aroste abused her employment position in order to steal people’s identities and defraud her employer.”
“SSA possesses the most sensitive and personal information for almost every person in this country, and SSA employees have a fundamental duty to protect that information,” said Inspector General Ennis. “We take any violation of the public trust very seriously, and we will continue to work with SSA to identify and root out suspected employee fraud. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for its support of these investigations and its efforts to bring them to a successful resolution.”
“We are pleased at the outcome of this case,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Mills. “The Diplomatic Security Service is committed to making sure those who commit identity theft and abuse their positions face the consequences of their actions.”