A pair of Brighton women allegedly bilked $200,000 worth of public benefits in an identity swap scheme, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.
Suffolk DA Daniel F. Conley said Randi Berkowitz, 63 and Patricia DiGiacomo, 58, were arraigned Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court on two counts of larceny and one count of receiving stolen property.
Prosecutors say Berkowitz began receiving Social Security disability payments 20 years ago, in part due to a back disorder. Berkowitz then posed as DiGiacomo to claim Social Security benefits under the latter’s name. In the alleged scheme, prosecutors say Berkowitz used her own back disorder to secure benefits that DiGiacomo received.
The fake claim was approved and in 2002, DiGiacomo started receiving $673 every month; she also received Medicare benefits she otherwise wouldn’t have qualified for.
The scheme meant Social Security and Medicare was hit with a $198,000 loss. The duo is also alleged to have received supplemental income at “times that their available resources exceeded the need-based benefit program’s for qualified applicants.” Berkowitz is alleged to have received more than $7,400 worth of such benefits during the past six years, while DiGiacomo is said to have received $603 worth of such benefits.
Berkowitz even obtained a driver’s license under DiGiacomo’s name so she could receive prescription painkillers from multiple doctors, according to the DA’s office. Prosecutors say the ruse even extended to neighbors; the DA’s office says she posed as DiGiacomo so she could befriend an elderly neighbor who had dementia. She would ultimately control the women’s finances and drain her of $450,000, according to authorities.
They are scheduled to be back in court on Nov. 13.