A 77-year-old woman spent much of the approximately $655,000 she bilked from government agencies at casinos, prosecutors announced this week. The Bronx, N.Y., defendant will avoid prison for an elaborate plot that started in 1960.
Carmen Soto was placed on probation for five years by Bronx Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Rosenblueth. If she completes the probation successfully, she avoids going behind bars, Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said in a statement.
Soto also must pay back the money under the plea bargain. Clark revealed “most of [the money] … was spent gambling at a casino.” Last month, Soto pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny.
The loot was stolen by Soto from the Social Security Administration and the New York City Human Resources Administration by using fake names to collect benefits, Clark said.
The defendant collected money under three different names, and carefully orchestrated a scheme to collect benefits she was not entitled to,” Clark explained.
The plot lasted for decades. But officials eventually realized something was up when Soto recently tried to renew her driver’s license. New York Department of Motor Vehicles facial recognition software revealed Soto was using multiple identities, Clark said.
In the past, Soto applied for and was approved for benefits by using the three names. Over the years, Soto collected $266,479.40 from the New York’s Human Resources Administration and $388,322.24 from the Social Security Administration, prosecutors said.
Besides her actual name, she used the names of Gloria Sanchez and Carmen Maldonado. She had Social Security numbers for each of her three identifies dating back to 1960.
She also had gotten driver’s licenses or non-driving IDs from the New York DMV. She also had multiple bank accounts, boxes at the Post Office, and passports.
Despite Soto not getting prison time, Sharon MacDermott, who works for the Social Security Administration’s New York Inspector General’s office, advised in a statement, “This sentencing should stand as a warning to those who are thinking of defrauding the Social Security Administration to receive benefits –- we will hold you accountable.”
Also, last month, in an unrelated case, a Latino nonprofit in Ohio closed its doors after the organization’s now-former executive director reportedly admitted to embezzling funds to cover her gambling habit.
Sabina Serratos is the subject of a criminal complaint recently filed with the Toledo Police Department, the Toledo Blade newspaper reported. Serratos was the executive director of Adelante, The Latino Resource Center, until her dismissal earlier this year.
Serratos’ termination came after board members were informed of potential fraud stemming from an audit of the organization’s finances conducted by a third party. Adelante Chairman Daniel Briones filed the complaint with local police on April 29.
Briones says the audit discovered that more than $400,000 went missing. Auditors linked the missing money back to Serratos and fraudulent business receipts.
Charges in Malta
In an unrelated case, the parents of a seven-year-old boy in Malta received donations from friends, family, and charitable organizations to cover their son’s cancer treatment. Instead, they allegedly gambled away the money.
The 31-year-old father and 27-year-old mother from Mosta, Malta, face charges of misappropriation, fraud, and money laundering following their arrest a few years ago.
They finally appeared before a judge this year, according to Malta Today. They entered not guilty pleas to all charges, the report said.
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