Illegal Alien in Lawrence Pleads Guilty to Identity Theft & Stealing MassHealth Benefits

BOSTON – A Dominican national formerly residing in Lawrence pleaded guilty on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, in federal court in Boston to Social Security and benefit fraud.

Cesar Franco Lara, 37, pleaded guilty to one count of false representation of Social Security number and one count of theft of government money. Pursuant to the plea agreement, Franco Lara will receive a sentence of 20 months in prison. U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin scheduled sentencing for May 13, 2020.

On Aug. 5, 2016, Franco Lara applied for a Massachusetts identification card using the name, date of birth and Social Security number of a United States citizen born in Puerto Rico. On Aug. 18, 2016, he used that Massachusetts identification card to apply for and receive nearly $3,500 of MassHealth benefits in the U.S. citizen’s name. In an effort to determine the true identity of the defendant, law enforcement found a non-immigrant visitor visa application bearing the defendant’s photograph and fingerprints. This application was refused by the Department of State in 2015. When arrested on federal charges, Franco Lara had on him a MassHealth ID card in the U.S. citizen’s name. His fingerprints were found to be a match of the fingerprints on file from the refused visa application.

The charges of false representation of a Social Security number provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000, restitution and forfeiture. The charge of theft of government funds provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years supervised release, a fine of $250,000, restitution and forfeiture. Franco Lara will be subject to deportation proceedings upon completion of his sentence. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Jason Molina, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston; and Phillip Coyne, Special Agent in Charge of Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Boston Field Division made the announcement today. Vital assistance was provided by the U.S. Marshals Service’s Fugitive Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lindsey E. Weinstein and David G. Tobin of Lelling’s Major Crimes Unit are prosecuting the case.