Man who faked retardation gets 13 months Illiterate man says he was wrong to ‘act like a child’ to get benefits
Updated: 11:37 p.m. CT May 11, 2007 TACOMA, Wash. - A Vancouver man was sentenced Friday to 13 months in prison for pretending to be mentally retarded in order to claim disability benefits.
Pete J. Costello, 28, pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to defraud the government and to Social Security fraud. He began receiving disability benefits when he was 8. He was ordered to repay the $59,226 he has received since turning 18.
Costello, who cannot read or write, dictated a letter to his public defender that was submitted to the judge before sentencing and filed in court.
“I know that it was wrong to ‘act like a child’ in the Social Security office when that is not how I really am,” the letter said. “I feel very bad about this and want to do everything I can to pay this money back.”
Costello’s mother, Rosie Costello, 46, who also pleaded guilty, is to be sentenced Thursday for coaching her son and daughter to feign mental retardation. Authorities have not found the daughter.
Pete Costello continued to fake retardation into his mid-20s — picking at his face, slouching and appearing uncommunicative in meetings with Social Security officials.
The scheme came to light last year after he got a traffic ticket in Vancouver, then was videotaped acting normally when he contested the ticket in court.
Mom taught her 2 kids to fake retardation Mother admits coaching children to collect more than $280,000 in benefits
Updated: 8:10 a.m. CT Feb 27, 2007 TACOMA, Wash. - A woman admitted Monday that she coached her two children to fake retardation starting when they were 4 and 8 years old so she could collect Social Security benefits on their behalf.
Rosie Costello, 46, admitted in U.S. District Court that she collected more than $280,000 in benefits, beginning in the mid-1980s. Most was from Social Security, but the state social services agency paid $53,000.
Costello pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government and Social Security fraud. Her son, Pete, 26, pleaded guilty earlier this month. Federal prosecutors in Seattle said Monday authorities had not yet located her daughter, Marie.
According to the plea agreement, Costello began coaching her daughter at age 4, and later used the same ruse with her son. He feigned retardation into his mid-20s — picking at his face, slouching and appearing uncommunicative in meetings with Social Security officials.
Social Security workers became suspicious and uncovered a video of Pete Costello ably contesting a traffic ticket in a Vancouver courtroom.
Pete Costello is scheduled to be sentenced May 11 and faces from six months to a year in prison, as well as $59,000 in restitution.
Rosie Costello is scheduled for sentencing May 17. Her standard sentencing range was not immediately available, but in the plea agreement she agreed to repay the government.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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