Psychologist gets prison stint for disability fraud

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A clinical psychologist from National City was
sentenced Wednesday to nearly two years in federal prison for fraudulently
obtaining government disability benefits via a scheme in which the Social
Security Administration was swindled out of at least $1.5 million.

While handing down the 21-month custody term in federal court in
downtown San Diego, Chief District Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz also ordered
Roberto J. Velasquez, 55, to repay the funds he illicitly obtained.

Over a six-year period beginning in 2006, Velasquez falsely certified
that dozens of able-bodied patients were disabled, according to court

To further the fraud, Velasquez made up patient histories, fabricated
test results, suggested symptoms and complaints that did not exist, and
intentionally underestimated patient scores on standardized tests, prosecutors

In exchange for each false report, Velasquez charged his patients a $200
kickback, according to the government.

In his plea agreement, the defendant, who was arrested in the case 13
months ago, admitted that he faked disability-exception forms used by the
Department of Homeland Security during naturalization processes.

Velasquez's false certifications allowed immigrants to avoid taking
civics and English-language portions of the U.S. citizenship exam, prompting
the Department of Homeland Security to grant exemptions to about 50 applicants
who were not actually disabled.

According to court documents, Velasquez coached his patients to skirt
the citizenship requirements by instructing them to use poor English during
interviews and avoid mentioning that they had college educations.

He also lied, prosecutors said, about the length of time he had been
treating his patients, in order to falsify a record that would satisfy
reviewers at the Social Security Administration, where he previously had worked
as a consultant.

In addition, Velasquez conceded that he submitted phony medical reports
to the Social Security Administration, falsely certifying that certain patients
were eligible for disability benefits when he knew they were not, and admitted
that roughly one-third of his patient files contained false statements and
bogus certifications of disability.

The fraud was uncovered through an undercover operation conducted by the
Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Homeland
Security Investigations and the Office of Inspector General in the Social
Security Administration.

The prosecution was part of the U.S. Attorney's Health Care Fraud

Categories: KUSI