A former Social Security Administration employee pleaded guilty in San Diego federal court Thursday to stealing $5,700 in money orders that the public was trying to repay the agency.
Josue Edgardo Castro admitted to stealing money orders 21 times, beginning in September 2015.
Castro, who worked for Social Security from 2009 until resigning in May 2016 because of the investigation, was tasked with accepting money from beneficiaries who'd been overpaid by the agency. He would then smuggle the money orders out of the office and deposit them into his personal checking account, according to his plea agreement.
Castro also admitted to waiving the outstanding balances of some beneficiaries at least nine times so he could hide that they had tried to repay the agency. His waivers cost Social Security more than $9,000, prosecutors said.
He was caught after one of the beneficiaries complained that her repayment was not reflected in her Social Security account records, the U.S. attorney's office said.
The agency looked into it, saw discrepancies and referred the matter to the Office of Inspector General.
Castro admitted to the thefts when confronted, and he resigned. He pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of theft of public property.
Castro is set to be sentenced April 3. He has agreed to forfeit the money he stole and to repay the money he cost the agency in his efforts to hide his crimes.
"There is nothing more important to federal employment than public trust. When that trust is violated, it impacts the entire federal workforce and those they serve," said Robb Stickley, the special agent in charge of Social Security's San Francisco Field Division, which is responsible for Southern California.
U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy called crimes committed by federal employees "some of the most egregious violations of the public trust."