05 December 2006

Personally, I admire their persistence.

In Washington, Pete Costello and his mother have been indicted for fraudulently claiming Social Security disability benefits. When he was eight years old, Costello's mother falsely claimed that he was mentally retarded and began collecting disability payments on his behalf; now, after maintaining the charade for nearly twenty years and collecting $110,000 in benefits, Costello has proven that maybe he really is retarded -- by blowing the entire scheme to contest a traffic citation:
In meetings with Social Security officials and psychologists, he appeared mentally retarded and unable to communicate. His mother insisted he couldn't read or write, shower, take care of himself or drive a car.

But now prosecutors say it was all a huge fraud, and they have video of Costello contesting a traffic ticket to prove it.

. . . .

[Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman] Barbosa filed with the court two videos of Pete Costello taken this year: In one, he allegedly feigns retardation during an interview with Social Security workers; the other is of him contesting the traffic ticket in a courtroom earlier this year.

The indictment accuses Costello of faking — or at least exaggerating — retardation since August 1997, because that is what prosecutors are confident they can prove, Barbosa said. But the pair first received benefits 10 years before that.

. . . .

Pete Costello sat in court Tuesday and said nothing. Instead of living with his mother, he works as an auto-body repairman and lives with a girlfriend and two of her children, prosecutors said.

"Obviously his mother did get him involved in this ... but he's been an adult for many years," Barbosa said.

Court documents indicate prosecutors believe his mother, 46, pulled the same trick with a daughter, whom officials have been unable to locate. All told, she raked in $222,000 on their behalf, according to the documents.

It wasn't all bad for Costello, though. His traffic citation was deferred.

Sure, when I retire there will be nothing left of Social Security, due in some small part to upstanding citizens like these. Notwithstanding, the great laugh I had this afternoon after reading this story will make all of the payroll deductions I'll see for the next few decades seem worthwhile. Thanks, Pete.

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