Stockton Man Pleads Guilty to Using Brother’s Identity to Steal Social Security Benefits

SACRAMENTO, CA — William Frances Stevens, 53, of Stockton, pleaded guilty today to theft of government property and aggravated identity theft and has agreed to pay full restitution, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

According to court documents, in 2015, Stevens applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits in California under his true identity. The Social Security Administration (SSA) ultimately denied his application because it did not find him disabled. In 2017, Stevens then stole his brother’s identity and used it unlawfully to apply for SSI benefits again. In his application, Stevens used a fraudulent California driver’s license that he obtained using his brother’s name, date of birth, and Social Security number.

In July 2017, SSA approved Stevens’ fraudulent SSI application and began paying him SSI benefits. During a portion of the time Stevens was receiving benefits, he was incarcerated for unrelated offenses. Stevens listed his wife as a representative payee so she could continue to collect the stolen benefits on his behalf while he was incarcerated. In general, jail inmates are not eligible to collect SSI benefits while they are incarcerated.

According to the plea agreement, SSA paid Stevens over $28,000 in SSI benefits between 2017 and 2019. Additionally, because Stevens was approved for SSI, he qualified for Medi-Cal benefits that were subsidized through federal funds paid to the California Department of Health Care Services. During this same timeframe, Stevens received over $38,000 in Medi-Cal benefits, in the form of medical coverage and services, to which Stevens was not entitled. Stevens knew he was not entitled to any of these benefits because, at a minimum, he had used a fraudulent identity to obtain them.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Artuz is prosecuting the case.

Stevens is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller on Feb. 22, 2021. Stevens faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for theft of government property. The penalty for aggravated identity theft is a mandatory two‑year prison term consecutive to any other sentence and a fine of up to $250,000. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.