5 convicted of stealing veteran, Social Security benefits

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Five men have been convicted in South Florida of running a scheme to steal more than $1.8 million in veteran and Social Security benefits.

A federal jury in Fort Lauderdale found Omar Shaquille Bailey and Ronaldo Garfield Green guilty last week of conspiracy to commit fraud following an eight-day trial, according to court documents. They’re scheduled to be sentenced in January.

Jamare Mason pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme on the second day of trial. Two others, Kadeem Gordon and Mario Ricketts, had pleaded guilty before the trial. Two other men suspected of participating in the fraud haven’t been captured.

From 2012 to 2017, the group attempted to redirect over $1.8 million in benefits from more than 100 disabled veterans and Social Security beneficiaries, officials said. The scheme resulted in the actual loss of nearly $1 million, though the federal government reimbursed the victims for the full amounts of their stolen benefits.

According to testimony at the trail, the group obtained the victims’ personal information and used it to fraudulently open bank accounts and prepaid debit cards in the victims’ names. The conspirators also forged documents that directed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration to deposit benefit payments into those fraudulent accounts, officials said.

Funds were withdrawn from ATMs and banks throughout South Florida and Georgia, investigators said. Much of the funds were ultimately funneled to the architects of the scheme in Jamaica, officials said.

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