Oregon Man Assumes Dead Child’s Identity for More Than Three Decades, Then Pockets Fraudulent Retirement Benefits

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A 70-year-old Oregon man who assumed the identity of a dead child more than three decades ago, worked under the child’s name and later applied for Social Security retirement benefits under both his true and assumed names was sentenced Monday to two years of federal probation.

Robert Lizaragga, of Gresham, obtained a Social Security number in the child’s name and used that identity as his own from 1991 on, according to a federal prosecutor.

Lizarraga collected double in retirement benefits, having worked under his real name until 1991 and then under the child’s name, according to court records.

The Internal Revenue Service also sent him CARES Act checks for both his true and fake identities, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Sowray.

Lizarraga told the judge he had gone to a courthouse and obtained the dead child’s name and birthdate from court records. It’s unclear if he had known the child or if the child was from Oregon, or what spurred him to commit the crime.

In June, he pleaded guilty to theft of government funds and making a false statement.

Lizarraga has repaid the Social Security Administration $12,509.60 in retirement benefits that he collected in the child’s name from 2017 through 2020 and also sent a $1,200 check to repay the IRS for the extra CARES Act check, according to Assistant Federal Public Defender Michelle Sweet.

Lizarraga said he was sorry.

“I’ve done everything I can to get things right. ... I apologize to the courts and to everybody I affected,” he told U.S. District Judge Karin J. Immergut.

He sat in a wheelchair, explaining to the judge he had suffered a stroke and now is struggling with blood clots in his leg.

Immergut said she appreciated that he paid back what he owed, but was struck by the long period of what appeared to be calculated fraud.

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