SAN DIEGO — A Social Security Administration employee pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing money orders sent by the public and depositing them into his own checking account.
Josue Edgardo Castro, of San Ysidro, faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 when he is sentenced April 3 in U.S. District Court in San Diego.
Castro, who accepted payments and had the authority to waive money owed to the government by overpaid beneficiaries, admitted that on at least 21 occasions, he accepted money orders meant for the Social Security Administration, smuggled them out of the office, and deposited them in his personal bank account.
In addition, Castro admitted that on at least nine separate occasions, he waived outstanding balances that were due to Social Security from overpaid beneficiaries in order to conceal that he had stolen their attempted repayments.
In all, Castro admitted stealing more than $5,700 in money orders and costing the Social Security Administration more than $9,000 due to the overpayment waivers he entered to hide his crimes.
“Crimes committed by federal employees are some of the most egregious violations of the public trust,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “Today’s guilty plea is a tangible result of my office and the Social Security Administration’s commitment to root out crime wherever it may be.”
Prosecutors said Castro’s scheme unraveled when one of his victims complained about an in-branch payment that was not reflected in her Social Security account records. Diligent Social Security employees then noticed other discrepancies and referred the matter for investigation by the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General.
After an intensive record review of months of transactions involving Castro, investigators were able to determine the scope of his crimes. When confronted by investigators, Castro admitted his crime and immediately resigned.
As part of his plea agreement, Castro agreed to forfeit all of the money that he made from his illegal actions, and to separately pay back all of the money he cost Social Security by manipulating records to conceal his theft.