Philadelphia detectives are working to track down up to 50 people who may also have been victims in the case of captive adults in a Tacony basement.
Identification documents of dozens of people were in the possession of alleged ring-leader Linda Ann Weston when she was arrested. Police said the documents may have been used in a large fraud network.
Disability advocates say the case is evidence of holes in the Social Security process that allows intellectually disabled adults to designate a representative payee–someone who controls their benefits.
The process requires identification from both parties involved, but Dee Coccia, co-executive director of the disability rights group Vision for Equality, said the process lacks oversight.
“It’s very easy. You can apply online and often they will ask you to bring the person in with you, but sometimes they do it by phone,” Coccia said. “I think Social Security in this particular case needs to find a better way to scrutinize.”
Coccia speculated direct deposit may make it easier for people on the move like Weston to continue to receive benefits payments.
The Social Security website said an in-person interview is generally required, but there are exceptions to the rule. The administration did not return calls seeking a fuller explanation of those exceptions. In a previous email, a Social Security representative said it recently strengthened oversight in the area.
Those designated as benefits custodians for the intellectually disabled are supposed to self-report how those benefits are spent so the Social Security Administration can track expenditures.