SAN DIEGO – A Mexican national has confessed to stealing the identity of an American citizen, and over the course of 37 years pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in government benefits, reported Fox 5 San Diego.
Andres Avelino Anduaga, 66, who is from Tijuana, Mexico, admitted in San Diego federal court on Thursday that he assumed the fake identity of a Texas resident named Abraham Riojos in 1980. He did so after obtaining a fraudulent birth certificate, and then successfully applied for a California driver’s license, Social Security number and passport.
From 1989 to 2016, according to the plea agreement, he received around $361,000 in benefits—which included Medi-Cal, food stamps and Supplemental Security Income benefits, according to Fox News.
Although Anduaga is identified as an illegal immigrant and repeat felon, the fake identity allowed him to go back-and-forth without restriction between Mexico and the United States. This reportedly occurred several times per week.
“The programs that this defendant stole from—for decades—provide benefits to America’s most needy. This prosecution demonstrates the commitment of the United States Attorney’s Office to protecting the integrity of our welfare programs and punishing those who prey on the goodwill of our nation and its taxpayers,” stated U.S Attorney Adam Braverman.
Investigators also located the real Abraham Riojos, who now resides in Florida. He said he had no indication that his identity had been stolen and used for so long. Authorities have not made clear how Anduaga feigned the identity, but it is believed the two did not know each other and never made contact.
Anduaga is required to pay back the full amount of government funds he fraudulently received, and faces twelve years behind bars and additional fines.
Sentencing is slated for May 29.