Sacramento, California - A 16-count superseding indictment by a federal grand jury was unsealed Tuesday against Darron Dimitri Ross, 33, of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Joshua Bilal George, 36, of San Diego, including charges of conspiracy to defraud and commit crimes against the United States, theft of government property, aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, and money laundering, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
This recent indictment supersedes a December 20, 2018, indictment that charged Ross and alleged co-conspirator Eric Lemoyne Willis, 43, of West Sacramento. On June 17, 2019, Willis pleaded guilty to charges in the original indictment, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, theft of government property, and aggravated identity theft.
According to court documents, Willis, Ross, and George conspired to steal public money from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Willis worked as an SSA Operation Supervisor in Sacramento and Lodi from at least 2015 until his departure in January 2018. In this timeframe, Willis used his authority as an SSA employee to access the confidential Social Security records of numerous Social Security 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. Willis sought out PII for beneficiaries who used direct deposit for payment of large benefits. Willis then transferred this PII to his co-conspirators, including Ross who resided in North Carolina, and George who worked as a Federal Protective Service Officer in San Diego.
According to court documents, Ross’s and George’s role 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 44 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 they caused the representatives to change the direct deposit account numbers to the fraudulent account numbers. The SSA then deposited the benefit payments into the fraudulent accounts until the fraud was detected. The conspirators were then free to withdraw the funds at ATMs and spend the money using debit cards.
SSA has identified at least 160 beneficiaries who were victims these crimes, and the total fraud loss suffered by SSA has exceeded $480,000.
This case was 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.
Federal agents arrested George this morning in San Diego, and he made his initial appearance in the Southern District of California. Willis is released on bond pending his sentencing, and Ross is released on bond pending trial.
If convicted of wire fraud, Ross and George face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted of aggravated identity theft, they each face a mandatory sentence of two years in prison consecutive to any other sentence imposed. The maximum sentence for theft of government property is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum sentence for conspiracy is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would 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. The charges are only allegations; each defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.