A Cambridge man used the identity of an out-of-state man to steal tens of thousands of dollars in government benefits over the last two decades, authorities alleged Monday.
Frederick Cross, 68, was charged with multiple counts of identity theft and with making false statements under penalty of perjury and to falsely obtain medical assistance. He faces up to 20 years in prison on some of the charges.
“Public assistance fraud is much more than a crime against government agencies,” said Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, whose office is prosecuting the case. “It’s a crime against the genuinely needy who depend on state benefits to support the very young, the very old, and the disabled. In this case, it also affected the innocent man whose identity the defendant assumed. That man still lives with massive inconvenience stemming from the charged offenses and likely will for some time.”
Cross allegedly used the name of a man with a similar name and even forged a birth certificate to apply for benefits. Since 2005, he has received at least $65,000 in state benefits including MassHealth, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Emergency Aid for the Elderly, Disabled and Children, authorities said.
Authorities said Cross also applied for Social Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance benefits three times since 1994 using the victim’s identity, though those applications were denied for unknown reasons.
Cross, who said he was poor, was ineligible for the benefits himself because he had outstanding warrants for his arrest for unrelated crimes including larceny and operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license.
Authorities in Massachusetts were alerted to the alleged theft after the victim contacted several state agencies and the Boston police to report that his identity was being used in loans and medical assistance applications, and that he was receiving the bills.
A lawyer for Cross would not comment on the case Monday.
Authorities could not say how Cross was able to carry out the alleged scheme for so long, but pointed out that he is accused of forging documents as part of his plan. The Office of the State Auditor and the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General assisted in the investigation.
Christopher Thompson, a spokesman for state Auditor Suzanne M. Bump, said that his office is auditing the state Department of Transitional Assistance and that proper precautions for such cases could become part of that review.
“With this audit, we will be able to offer more insight into policies and how cases like this can be prevented in the future,” he said.
Conley’s office said in a statement that the identity theft victim reported receiving bills for thousands of dollars, and that he is still undergoing “a variety of time-consuming steps to establish his identity to various businesses, agencies, and individuals.”
Jake Wark, a spokesman for the office, said Boston police began investigating applications in the victim’s name and the case led back to Cross. Authorities said they found altered birth certificates of the victim in Cross’s apartment and at the state Department of Transitional Assistance.
Investigators also say that Cross received a replacement Social Security card in his victim’s name in 1994, a Massachusetts driver’s license in the victim’s name in 1996, and a Massachusetts ID card in the victim’s name in 2008.
Cross was eventually summonsed to court, but did not appear. He was arrested Thursday after arriving at the Social Security office in Waltham. He was ordered held on $25,000 cash bail.