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Social Security News

Sen. Casey to Close Social Security Loopholes Allowing Philly Basement Case

Basement case suspects held 4 mentally disabled captives while taking their SSA benefits

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)Dec. 2, 2011 - A bill introduced in the Senate this week will close loopholes in the Social Security system that allowed suspects in the Philadelphia basement case to bilk their captives of their Social Security benefits and avoid police for years. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) says his bill will give the SSA access to government databases and increase the number of fraud investigators at the agency.

The legislation will finally give the SSA the tools and resources required to perform a criminal background check on every person who applies to serve as a representative payee, including the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.

Sen. Casey serves on the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging and on the Subcommittee for Primary Health & Aging of the Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

 

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For years, suspects in the Philadelphia basement case were allowed to collect Social Security checks on behalf of children, teens and the adults with disabilities, even though they would have failed a routine criminal background check.

If enacted at the time the primary suspect applied to be a representative payee, Senator Casey’s bill would have ensured the denial of her application.

The bill will allow SSA to access existing government databases that identify violent criminals who would not be eligible to serve as representative payees - the status the suspects in the Philadelphia basement-case used to bilk their captives of their benefits. This bill would also increase the number of SSA fraud investigators so that every person who applies to be a representative payee goes through a criminal background check.

"The horrors that took place in the Tacony basement case are deeply troubling, and we must do everything we can to ensure this never, ever happens again," Senator Casey said. "This legislation will ensure that the Social Security Administration has the resources and the tools it needs to stop another situation like this in its tracks."

A 2004 law, The Social Security Protection Act, contained a provision barring individuals who have been imprisoned for more than a year from becoming representative payees, who are eligible to cash someone else's check.

The 2004 law authorized the Social Security Administration to identify those ineligible felons, but a 2010 report by the agency’s Inspector General showed that SSA staff routinely failed to perform thorough criminal background checks and that the agency’s self-reporting program was unreliable.

According to the SSA, there are two factors that prevent the agency from checking the criminal background of every representative payee applicant. First, the agency is unable to access government databases that contain criminal background information; and second, the SSA also does not have enough staff to perform a background check on every applicant.

News About the Philadelphia Case

Suspect in Pennsylvania Basement Captivity Case Found Competent

PHILADELPHIA (11/16/2011)– A Philadelphia judge has declared the alleged ringleader behind the imprisonment of four mentally disabled adults competent to stand trial, even though she was found mildly retarded by a doctor, MyFoxPhilly.com reports.

Linda Weston and three others, including her daughter and her boyfriend, are accused of holding four disabled people captive in a basement dungeon in Tacony.

On Wednesday, a court in Philadelphia determined Weston has some level of mental retardation. She apparently couldn't spell "cat" or remember who is president (she thought it was President Bush).

The court ruled that Weston will get 60 days of treatment, and her preliminary hearing is set for Dec. 19.

Weston and her accomplices are accused of running a massive fraud operation by holding their victims captive in a basement and collecting their Social Security disability benefits. More at Fox News

Update: Tacony gag order

Nov. 6, 2011 - Lawyers for Philadelphia Media Network Inc., parent of the The Inquirer, Daily News and philly.com, on Friday formally appealed a gag order issued last Wednesday in the case of four people charged with imprisoning four mentally disabled individuals in a Tacony basement to steal their Social Security disability benefits. More at Philadelphia Inquirer

 

 

 

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