Feds decline to criminally prosecute after social security checks go missing

RICHMOND, Va. — The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia declined to criminally prosecute a case involving missing social security checks belonging to 300 vulnerable people, according to Andrew Cannarsa, a spokesperson for the U.S. Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General. The checks were sent to a Richmond business that abruptly closed in June 2016.

Cannarsa said the U.S. Attorney’s Office opened an criminal investigation based on an allegation of representative payee misuse.

The business, Crossroads, Inc., was a representative payee for social security, which means the feds send social security checks there to manage for people who are so mentally incapacitated they cannot handle their own finances.

Among those people, a severely mentally ill woman who lived at Central State Hospital in Petersburg at the time.

Attorney Ryan Young told us then he used to be her guardian ad litem, and did pro bono work on her behalf.

He said she has $51,000 in social security money that was being managed by Crossroads, Inc. that is now missing.

“I hope the money is there. There is something very suspicious going on,” Young said at the time. “These are the most vulnerable people in society.”

Young said he had not been able to reach the business for months, and there was a sign on the door stating Crossroads, Inc. was closed and people should go to the social security office on W. Cary Street.

“We don’t know for certain what happened with the money we just want them to return our phone calls,” Young said.

“SSA reported that all Crossroads beneficiaries were assigned to another representative payee, and Crossroads was barred from serving as a payee organization with SSA. SSA/OIG referred the case to SSA for any administrative actions deemed necessary in October 2017,” Cannarsa said on Wednesday.

The former business was also cited inside a report CBS 6 investigator Melissa Hipolit obtained from the City of Richmond’s Zoning Office in February 2017.

It detailed an investigation conducted by the city’s CAPS Team into illegal assisted living facility schemes.

The report showed Crossroads Payee Service processed many of the residents’ checks who lived at alleged illegal assisted living homes.

Don Andrews, who used to be a Zoning Officer with the city, worked on the report, and said the owner of the assisted living homes would use Crossroads like a personal ATM.

“He would come in for $35, or $75, and just take the money out, and she would hand him this money,” Andrews said.

“How is it supposed to work?” Hipolit asked Andrews.

“You’re supposed to justify, like anything else you would come in with a record for lease and this is who I rent to, that information would be verified,” Andrews said.

CBS 6 investigative reporter Melissa Hipolit has asked the feds what they’re doing to get the beneficiaries their money back, and the government the taxpayer dollars that were allegedly stolen back.

This is a developing story.