Afghan Ex-IEC Chief Convicted of Fraud in US

Afghanistan’s former chief of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) Mohammad Yousuf Nuristani has convicted of public budget theft and federal welfare fraud by a court in the United States.

A US attorney’s office in southern district of California has announced that Yusuf Nuristani pleaded guilty in federal court to Theft of Public Money, admitting that he received over $100,000 in government benefits by concealing foreign travel and residency between July 2015 and December 2018.

During a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen S. Crawford, Nuristani admitted that he applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from the Social Security Administration in July 2015.

Nuristani acknowledged that he knew an SSI recipient must reside within the United States, and that he was required to report any travel outside of the United States lasting more than thirty days.

He admitted to concealing and repeatedly lying to the Social Security Administration about his foreign travel and residency, and to receiving $27,492.44 in SSI payments and to causing a loss of $73,090.34 to the State of California for health care payments and services as a result of his fraud, a statement by the attorney’s office clarified.

The statement further said that Nuristani received SSI at his claimed address in E1 Cajon, California as he was serving both as the head of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission and as an Afghan senator in the upper body of Afghanistan Parliament, Meshrano Jirga.

According to a press release by the California’s district office, this particular case was brought through the Travel and Residency Enforcement Co-Op (TREC), a pilot project of the Social Security Administration, its Office of Inspector General, the California Department of Health Care Services Investigations Division, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California.

TREC is designed to detect and prevent misuse of the SSI program, a needs-based program administered by the Social Security Administration and designed to provide a floor of income for the aged, blind or disabled who have little or no income and resources. An individual approved to receive SSI automatically becomes eligible to receive Medi-Cal health benefits from the State of California.

Since its formation in 2017, TREC has resulted in 25 federal convictions of individuals who fraudulently concealed foreign travel, foreign residency, and foreign financial resources from the Social Security Administration.

To date, TREC has obtained over $2 million in court-ordered restitution to state and federal agencies, and has resulted in a savings of millions more.

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