San Diego, California - Joshua Bilal George, 38, of San Diego, pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to defraud the United States and wire fraud, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
This is the third and final defendant to plead guilty in this case involving a conspiracy and scheme to defraud the Social Security Administration (SSA). Co-defendants Eric Lemoyne Willis and Darron Dimitri Ross pleaded guilty to similar charges in June 2019 and February 2020, respectively.
According to court documents, George worked for the Federal Protective Service (FPS) in Sacramento between 2011 and 2015, and in San Diego thereafter where he was promoted to the position of Area Commander. Willis worked as an SSA Operations Supervisor in Sacramento and Lodi from at least 2015 until his departure in January 2018. George met Willis through his work at FPS in Sacramento and knew Ross from his childhood in North Carolina.
Between January 2016 and October 2018, George, Willis, and Ross conspired to steal public money from the SSA. Willis used his authority as an SSA employee to access the confidential Social Security records of numerous beneficiaries. These records contained personally identifiable information (PII) including names, addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth, account numbers, family information, and benefit payment amounts. Additionally, Willis sought out PII for beneficiaries who used direct deposit for payment of large benefits. He then transferred this information to Ross in North Carolina, who in turn transferred it to George.
Ross and George’s roles in these crimes included calling numerous SSA field offices across the country and using the stolen PII to impersonate the beneficiaries. The conspirators opened at least 70 online bank accounts under fraudulent identities to receive diverted SSA benefit payments. During these calls, Ross and George convinced some of the SSA representatives that they were the identity-theft victims and caused the representatives to change the direct deposit account numbers to the fraudulent account numbers. Before the fraud could be detected, the SSA deposited the benefit payments into the fraudulent accounts. The conspirators were then free to withdraw the funds at ATMs and spend the money using debit cards.
SSA has identified over 200 beneficiaries nationwide who were targeted by these crimes, and the total loss has exceeded $695,000. The defendants spent the proceeds of their crimes on trips to Las Vegas, luxury items such as Rolex watches, and other things.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Social Security Administration – Office of the Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security – Office of the Inspector General. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Artuz is prosecuting the case.
George is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb on Nov. 15, 2021. Willis and Ross are scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 6, 2021, and Jan. 31, 2022, respectively. George faces a maximum statutory penalty of 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.