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Oregon man pleads guilty to stealing dead child's identity, collecting Social Security benefits for years

Robert Lizarraga, 70, pleaded guilty Monday to theft of government funds and making false statements, federal records said.

An Oregon man pleaded guilty this week to theft of government funds and making false statements in connection to stealing the identity of a deceased child decades ago and using it to collect retirement benefits, federal authorities said.

Robert Lizarraga, 70, admitted to fraudulently collecting retirement benefits from a stolen identity, according to court documents from federal court in the District of Oregon. Prosecutors say Lizarraga stole the deceased child’s identity in 1990 and began using it for his work history the next year.

Lizarraga, of Gresham, Oregon, cashed in $12,509.60 from retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration he was not entitled to. He also deposited a $1,200 check he falsely obtained from the Internal Revenue Service, court documents state. Those offenses occurred from August 2017 through June 2020, court records stated.

He used the identifying information of the dead child to fraudulently obtain a Social Security number in April 1990, and then used that identity as his own from then on.

"His work history was under his true name until 1991, after which his work history was under the false identity,” according to a plea agreement filed on June 2.

Lizarraga also collected retirement benefits from his true identity, records said.

He was sentenced to two years of probation on Monday, even though he was facing up to 10 years imprisonment.

Court documents said prosecutors took into consideration Lizarraga’s lack of recent criminal history, his health issues and how he eventually cooperated with authorities.

He paid back the Social Security Administration in full, and according to a court filing from Sept. 8, he told prosecutors he sent the IRS a check for the $1,200 he owed.

Lizarraga could not be reached Wednesday. A spokeswoman with the federal public defender’s office declined comment.

Lizarraga told the judge he went to a courthouse and obtained the dead child’s name and birthdate from court records, The Oregonian reported. It’s unclear if he had known the child or what motived him to steal the identity.

The Associated Press contributed.