CAMDEN — A Social Security Administration employee in the Egg Harbor Township office admitted Monday to unlawfully accessing Social Security accounts and falsifying records to steal funds for his own use, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Nicholas Pao, 37, of Egg Harbor Township, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez in federal court to charges of theft of government funds and aggravated identity theft, Carpenito said.
Pao, a 10-year employee of the Social Security Administration, worked as a claims technical expert, responsible for determining eligibility and payment amounts, processing difficult cases, assisting in case reviews and making special payment approvals, Carpenito said.
From December 2014 to July 2018, Pao used his credentials to access the confidential records of several individuals without their knowledge or authority, Carpenito said.
Pao altered their records and made fraudulent changes that caused the Social Security Administration to issue benefits to these individuals, Carpenito said. He would then intercept these benefits, which were issued by way of a Direct Express account and credit card.
Pao depleted the funds issued on the Direct Express accounts without the knowledge or consent of the individuals, stealing about $100,000 in Social Security funds, Carpenito said.
Theft of government funds is punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, Carpenito said.
The aggravated identity theft counts are punishable by a mandatory prison sentence of two years that must be served consecutively to any term imposed for theft of government funds, Carpenito said.
Each of the counts is also punishable by a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gain or loss caused by the offense, whichever is greatest, Carpenito said.
Sentencing is scheduled for June 12.
If anyone in the public believes they might have been the victim of Pao’s Social Security fraud scheme, they are advised to call the Office of the Inspector General at 888-487-9917, Carpenito said.