Crime - Sacto 911

Former West Sac Social Security employee pleads guilty to stealing $480,000 from agency

A former Social Security Administration employee from West Sacramento plead guilty Monday to stealing $480,000 from the agency through identity theft, officials said.

Eric Lemoyne Willis, 43, targeted at least 160 Social Security beneficiaries and spent the money on trips to Las Vegas and Rolex watches, according to a news release from the Department of Justice.

Willis plead guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States, theft of government property and aggravated identity theft, the Department of Justice said.

From 2003 to January 2018, Willis was employed by the SSA, the news release said. From 2016 on, he was an operations supervisor in the south Sacramento and Lodi field offices.

Willis used his power as an SSA employee to access confidential records for multiple Social Security beneficiaries, according to the news release. These records contained personal information, including names, addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth, account numbers, family information and benefit payment amounts, according to the news release.

Willis sought beneficiaries who received large amounts of money and used direct deposit, according to court documents. Then, he gave their personal information to his alleged accomplice, Darron Dimitri Ross, who lived in North Carolina.

Ross, who plead not guilty and is awaiting trial, allegedly called numerous SSA offices across the country and impersonated beneficiaries, court documents say. He allegedly opened at least 44 online bank accounts under fraudulent identities to redirect the Social Security benefits, according to court documents.

If Ross convinced the SSA he was the beneficiary, he would allegedly request the beneficiary’s direct deposit account be changed to one of the fraudulent accounts, according to the Department of Justice. The benefits would then deposit into the fraudulent account until the fraud was detected, the Department of Justice said.

Willis and Ross could spend the money in the accounts using debit cards, officials said. Ross also allegedly gave Willis a portion of the stolen money for his participation in the crimes, officials said.

Willis is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 9 and faces a maximum sentence of 17 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.

The investigation was conducted by the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General and the FBI.

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Meghan Bobrowsky, from Scripps College, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee, focusing on breaking news and school funding. She grew up in nearby Davis.