February 16, 2012

Portland man gets 3½ years for ID theft, fraud

PORTLAND — A Portland man found guilty of identity theft and benefits fraud was sentenced Wednesday to three years and six months in prison and ordered to pay $198,000 in restitution.

Antigua native Besouro Abdul Zagon, 52, also known as Donald Benjamin, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge George Singal on charges related to impersonating an Illinois man to gain federal benefits, including assistance with housing, health care, nutrition and education.

The fraud occurred over a 25-year period, according to a news release from the U.S. District Attorney's Office. It began in Massachusetts and continued for the past 11 years in Maine.

Zagon was born Donald Benjamin. He changed his name in 1991 for spiritual reasons, he has said.

Zagon, who is in the United States illegally, had used the Social Security number of Earl Benjamin Jr. since 1986, according to court documents. Federal officials learned of the possible identity theft when the real Earl Benjamin applied for a passport and was told that multiple passports had been issued to him over the years.

The U.S. Attorney's release said, at the sentencing, the victim outlined the ways he was harmed by the theft of his identity. He said he lost his business because he couldn't get a loan or credit. He couldn't get a fixed rate mortgage and his home was foreclosed upon. He was billed for education loans he didn't take out, and his driver's license was suspended for violations he didn't commit.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Departments of State, Diplomatic Security Service, Homeland Security, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development and Agriculture, as well as the Social Security Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

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