A Washington, D.C. rooming house operator was charged this month in a 35-count indictment for carrying out a plot to steal more than $400,000 in Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits from elderly, mentally ill and disabled veterans, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorneys Office for the District of Columbia.
Rosemary Ogbenna, 45, is facing 35 total charges against her. These charges include 12 counts of mail fraud, 16 counts of wire fraud, one count of theft of government property, two counts of aggravated identity theft, one count of representative payee fraud, one count of making a false statement, one count of tampering with documents, and one count of first-degree theft.
According to court documents, Ogbenna allegedly carried out a decade-long scheme to steal government benefits from tenants staying at her housing business. The prosecution alleges that from March 2009 to February 2020., Ogbenna set herself as the Representative Payee of her tenants’ Social Security benefits, allotting herself a portion of their funds for her own personal use.
Ogbenna also illegally gained control of her tenants’ monthly VA benefits to use for her own personal benefit, according to court documents. When questioned by agents investigating the fraud scheme, she allegedly lied during questioning and provided agents with falsified documents.
Each count of mail fraud, wire fraud and tampering with evidence holds a maximum penalty of 20-years imprisonment if she is convicted. Ogbenna also potentially faces 10 years for the counts of government property theft, two years for each count of identity theft — which would run consecutively with any sentence received for wire fraud — and five years for the count of Representative Payee fraud.
If convicted, Ogbenna will also likely face the forfeiture of any funds she took over the years while carrying out her fraud scheme.
While Ogbenna has been indicted in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, it is important to note that an indictment is a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal law, and is not necessarily a confirmation of guilt.
The case is being investigated by the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General, the VA’s Office of Inspector General and the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane Lucas, of the Fraud Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, will be prosecuting the case.
Ogbenna is set to be arraigned in federal court Nov. 30.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran and a master's candidate at New York University's Business & Economic Reporting program.