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Michigan Man Gets Prison for Social Security Fraud

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – P. Razo Fierro, 66, the former owner of Pablo’s Tacos, a popular Mexican restaurant in Muskegon, Michigan was sentenced to federal prison Wednesday for Social Security fraud.

On Dec. 09, U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell sentenced Fierro to 15 months in prison, followed by 12 months of supervised release.

On Wednesday, Bell ordered Fierro to pay $232,531.25 in restitution, however, the judge waived the interest due to Fierro’s inability to pay, according to court documents.

Between 1999 and 2011, Fierro illegally collected nearly a quarter-million dollars in Social Security Disability benefits for a back injury he sustained while working at Eagle Ottawa Leather Co. in 1992.

In the period following 1999, Fierro, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was actually working, starting with El Camino Tacos, and in 2004, at his own restaurant, Pablo’s Tacos in Roosevelt Park, according to the government sentencing memorandum.

In 2008, the Muskegon Chronicle ran an article and online video about how well the restaurant was doing, where Fierro talked about working long hours at his restaurant since opening.

That’s when the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General was alerted, and they launched an investigation into Fierro, finding that he had been fraudulently receiving disability payments for years.

In January 2011 federal agents interviewed Fierro. He admitted to the crimes and hired an attorney. After meeting with agents and the prosecutor again in March of that year, he paid $2,000 in restitution.

Shortly thereafter, Fierro “panicked,” according to his attorney, and fled to Mexico with his wife. In 2012, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Grand Rapids issued a sealed indictment, which officially charged Fierro with fraud.

In September 2014, the couple came back to the United States unaware of the warrant for Fierro’s arrest. The couple reunited with their family in Muskegon County and on June 30, U.S. marshals arrested him in Twin Lake.

Fierro’s lawyer argued that his client’s fraud was due to an addiction to narcotic painkillers, which were obtained by Fierro following his 1992 back injury.

Fierro’s sentencing memo claimed that he was still in severe pain, but was able to partially mask it with excessive painkiller use, allowing him to work despite his disability. Fierro allegedly believed that he needed to stay on disability in order to maintain his prescription drug addiction.

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