updated 5/12/2007 12:37:51 AM ET 2007-05-12T04:37:51

A Vancouver man was sentenced Friday to 13 months in prison for pretending to be mentally retarded in order to claim disability benefits.

Pete J. Costello, 28, pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to defraud the government and to Social Security fraud. He began receiving disability benefits when he was 8. He was ordered to repay the $59,226 he has received since turning 18.

Costello, who cannot read or write, dictated a letter to his public defender that was submitted to the judge before sentencing and filed in court.

“I know that it was wrong to ‘act like a child’ in the Social Security office when that is not how I really am,” the letter said. “I feel very bad about this and want to do everything I can to pay this money back.”

Costello’s mother, Rosie Costello, 46, who also pleaded guilty, is to be sentenced Thursday for coaching her son and daughter to feign mental retardation. Authorities have not found the daughter.

Pete Costello continued to fake retardation into his mid-20s — picking at his face, slouching and appearing uncommunicative in meetings with Social Security officials.

The scheme came to light last year after he got a traffic ticket in Vancouver, then was videotaped acting normally when he contested the ticket in court.

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