CHICAGO — A claims specialist for the U.S. Social Security Administration has been indicted on federal fraud and identity theft charges for allegedly approving and pocketing at least $680,000 in fraudulent benefits.
ANNE AROSTE, also known as “Ann 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. According to the indictment, Aroste created fraudulent applications for benefits on the Social Security earnings records of deceased workers. She then used her employee credentials to approve the applications and to route the payments to bank accounts she controlled, the indictment states.
From 2013 to last month, Aroste caused the U.S. Treasury Department to issue at least $680,962, in fraudulent payments, the indictment states.
The indictment charges Aroste, 42, of Montgomery, with five counts of wire fraud and five counts of aggravated identity theft. She was arrested this morning and pleaded not guilty at an afternoon arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel G. Martin. A detention hearing is set for June 13, 2018, at 11:00 a.m., before U.S. District Judge Manish S. Shah.
The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Tracey Thanos, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General in Chicago; and Benjamin Sides, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service Chicago Field Office.
The indictment describes five instances in which Aroste allegedly caused an application for Social Security benefits to be submitted in the names of individuals whom Aroste falsely claimed had been married to deceased workers. Aroste used her employee credentials to approve the fraudulent applications for survivor’s benefits based on the Social Security earnings of the deceased workers, the indictment states. The Treasury then transmitted the benefit payments into Aroste’s bank accounts.
The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Each count of wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, while each count of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory, consecutive prison sentence of two years in prison. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
The government is represented by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared C. Jodrey.