FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO [Hon. Francisco A. Besosa, U.S. District Judge]
Heather Clark and Clark Law Office on brief for appellant.
F. Klumper, Assistant United States Attorney, Senior
Appellate Counsel, Mariana E. Bauzá-Almonte, Assistant
United States Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, and Rosa
Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney,
on brief for appellee.
Howard, Chief Judge, Torruella and Lynch, Circuit Judges.
convicted Raúl Domínguez-Figueroa of three
charges stemming from a fraudulent scheme to obtain
disability benefits from the Social Security Administration
("SSA"). He now appeals from both his convictions
and his sentence. Finding no merit to his arguments, we
is a lifelong resident of Ciales, Puerto Rico and worked
there from 1993 until 2010 as a welder for Thermo King, a
manufacturer of refrigeration units for tractor-trailers.
Between April 2008 and January 2009, Thermo King closed its
Ciales plant and transferred all the plant's employees,
including Domínguez, to a different plant in Arecibo,
Puerto Rico. On November 3, 2010, Domínguez submitted
a written resignation letter, which cited transportation
problems as his reason for resigning.
February 8, 2011, Domínguez first visited Dr. Luis
Escabí-Pérez ("Dr. Escabí"), a
psychiatrist, who had previously worked as an SSA claims
examiner -- and who would ultimately become
Domínguez's co-defendant in this prosecution.
According to Dr. Escabí's trial testimony,
Domínguez showed symptoms consistent with mild to
moderate depression, not severe enough to prevent him from
working. Claimants are entitled to SSA disability benefits
only if their disability is so severe that they cannot work.
See 42 U.S.C. § 423(d).
Dr. Escabí further testified, he agreed to help
Domínguez obtain SSA disability benefits by (1)
backdating his first appointment to December 9, 2010; (2)
exaggerating Domínguez's symptoms, diagnosing him
with severe depression, and prescribing unnecessarily strong
medications; and (3) scheduling unnecessary monthly
appointments until the SSA approved Domínguez's
application for benefits. Dr. Escabí knew, based in
part on his experience as an SSA claims examiner, that these
actions would help Domínguez obtain SSA approval for
disability benefits to which Domínguez was not
20, 2011, Domínguez applied for SSA disability
benefits via telephone. The SSA claims representative advised
Domínguez several times that the application was being
submitted under penalty of perjury. Domínguez told the
representative that his disabling depression had begun on
December 9, 2010, and that it had caused him to stop working.
In July 2011, he mailed an Adult Function Report to the SSA,
using template answers provided by Dr. Escabí that
exaggerated Domínguez's true condition. On July
24, 2011, Dr. Escabí submitted a Psychiatric Medical
Report to the SSA, in which he, too, exaggerated the severity
of Domínguez's condition. Based on all this
information, Domínguez was approved for SSA disability
benefits on February 28, 2012, with a disability onset date
of December 9, 2010. He was awarded a retroactive payment of
$10, 437 and prospective monthly payments of $1, 187.
September and October 2014, SSA officers conducted
surveillance of Domínguez and interviewed him. Their
investigation revealed that Domínguez had few or no
symptoms of the severe depression he and Dr. Escabí
had continued to report to the SSA: for example, he could
interact and converse normally with others, drive a car,
carry out simple chores, be outside alone, and withstand
noise. SSA officers also visited Domínguez's
Facebook page and printed out several photos, all uploaded at
times when Domínguez had told the SSA he was disabled.
The photos, some of which depicted Domínguez
socializing with others, reinforced the officers'
suspicion that he and Dr. Escabí had been
misrepresenting the severity of his depression.
January 13, 2015, Domínguez and Dr. Escabí were
jointly indicted. The counts against Domínguez
included conspiring to defraud the United States (Count One),
see 18 U.S.C. § 371, stealing government
property (Count Three), see id. § 641, and
making material false statements in an application for
disability benefits (Count Five), see 42 U.S.C.
§ 408(a)(2). After an eight-day trial, in which Dr.
Escabí testified as a government witness, the jury
found Domínguez guilty on Counts One, Three, and Five,
and found that the total amount of wrongfully obtained
disability payments was $87, 268.
district court sentenced Domínguez to ten months of
imprisonment and three years of supervised release, to be
served concurrently on all three counts, and ordered him to
pay $87, 268 in ...