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SAN DIEGO — A man from Tijuana, Mexico admitted in federal court today that he assumed the identity of an American citizen for 37 years in order to enter the country and steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal, state and local government benefits.

Andres Avelino Anduaga said in court that he took the identity of an American in 1980, using it to apply for a Social Security number and disability benefits. From 1989 to 2016, Anduaga admitted to receiving almost a quarter-million dollars.

That’s according to the office of the United States Attorney Southern District of California, who announced that Anduaga agreed to pay full restitution to the government entities he fraudulently received support from. He faces up to 12 years in federal prison.

“The programs that this defendant stole from – for decades – provide benefits to America’s most needy,” said U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman. “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.