Casey Unveils Significant Federal Steps in Wake of Tacony Dungeon Case

In November, Casey Called on Social Security Admin to Close Loopholes That Allowed Suspect Linda Weston to Bilk Her Captives of Their Social Security Funds, Evade Police for Years

New Social Security Administration Pilot Program Will Take Place in Philadelphia, Seeks to End Weston-Like Abuses

PHILADELPHIA, PA – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) , today, unveiled  significant federal steps in response to the Tacony dungeon case. In November, Casey called on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to close loopholes that allowed suspect Linda Weston to bilk her captives of their Social Security funds and evade police for years. Today, Casey detailed a new pilot program that will take place in Philadelphia that seeks to end abuses of the system like the ones Linda Weston is accused of perpetrating.

“The loopholes in the Social Security system that allowed Linda Weston to evade police for years were completely unacceptable. This new program is the first step toward making sure these abuses never happen again,” Casey said. “Philadelphia’s most vulnerable citizens have experienced firsthand the consequences of Linda Weston’s behavior, and now the city’s residents will be the first to benefit from new protections that will seek to close the loopholes in the Social Security system.”

Casey continued, “In the coming months I will be closely monitoring the progress of this program to ensure it is adequately protecting Pennsylvania’s children and vulnerable citizens, and I’ll push Congress to pass my bill, the ASSESS Act, so that the Social Security Administration will have the tools they need to protect beneficiaries.”

Today, Senator Casey announced the details of a new SSA pilot program that would seek to end the abuses that the accused, Linda Weston, is alleged to have exploited:

Pilot Program

Beginning on Monday, June 4, SSA will be conducting a 3 to 6 month pilot program in Philadelphia to test the effectiveness of barring individuals convicted of certain crimes from serving as a representative payee.  Convictions for any of 12 different offenses would bar an individual from serving as a representative payee:

  • Human trafficking
  • False imprisonment
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape/sexual offense
  • First degree homicide
  • Robbery
  • Fraud to obtain governmental assistance
  • Fraud by scheme
  • Theft of government funds/property
  • Abuse/neglect
  • Forgery
  • Identity theft

The Social Security offices participating in the pilot will ask the prospective representative payees specific questions about past criminal behavior.  They will also conduct a background check using a prisoner database, which has information about individuals who have been incarcerated during the past 2 years and additional periods for individuals who were receiving benefits prior to incarceration.

As part of the pilot they will also work to develop an electronic system to conduct background checks using a commercially available product.

In October 2011, four mentally challenged adults were found locked in a sub-basement boiler room in Philadelphia.  Allegedly, these individuals were held captive so that, Linda Weston -- operating as their representative payee -- could collect their benefit checks. Since that time, a total of 10 adults and children have been taken out of her care and into custody. This case is not the first of the kind brought against the accused. 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) appoints a representative payee when it is determined that a beneficiary is not capable of managing or directing the management of their Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits. Representative payees are responsible for using the benefits they receive to meet the person’s basic needs.  There are approximately 5.6 million representative payees, managing $61 billion annually for approximately 7.6 million beneficiaries. 

In October 2011, Senator Casey sent a letter to the Social Security Administration calling on them to close the loopholes which allowed the suspect, Linda Weston, to perpetrate these abuses against vulnerable children. In December, Casey introduced the ASSESS Act, which would provide the Social Security Administration with access to a more robust criminal background check system to better vet representative payees, and protect those in their care.