Together, The Pair Allegedly Stole More Than $200,000 in Benefits
Two Nassau County residents have been arraigned for separate incidents in which they defrauded the Social Security Administration out of a total of more than $200,000 in disability and retirement benefits.
Markus Effinger, 55, of Uniondale, and Gloria Sevilla, 58, of Valley Stream, were arraigned on October 2 before Judge Marie McCormack, each on one count of second-degree grand larceny, a C felony. Both pleaded not guilty and were released on their own recognizance. If convicted, they could face up to 15 years in prison. Effinger is due back in court on October 18; Sevilla is scheduled to be back in court on October 6.
Both investigations were referred to NCDA by the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General.
“Millions of people rely on Social Security disability and retirement benefits every day to make ends meet,” said Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly. “These defendants allegedly took advantage of a system designed to protect the most vulnerable from financial stress and stole tens of thousands of dollars of benefits to which they were not entitled. We must protect these vital services for the people who need them most.”
“These arrests demonstrate that my office will continue to pursue those who obtain, or retain, Social Security benefits fraudulently,” added Gail S. Ennis of the Social Security Administration’s Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. “Our duty is to protect taxpayers’ funds for those who are truly entitled to receive them. I appreciate the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office for their work and support of our investigations.”
In May 2012, Effinger began collecting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for “retinal detachment” and other vision issues.
According to SSA regulations, an individual is eligible to collect SSI benefits if they are deemed to have a disability and the applicant has less than $2,000 in monthly resources, and recipients are required to report any income or asset changes.
In June 2014, March 2015, and November 2018, Effinger provided information to the SSA and continued to receive benefits. He claimed to live with his family, pay $500 a month in rent, and have just over $100 in bank account resources.
The investigation revealed that Effinger and his fiancée were 50% managing members of a company called Dash Xpress as well as drivers for the company, which had submitted documents to the New York State Department of Health (DOH) for enrollment as a Medicaid transportation provider. DOH and bank records revealed that DOH paid Dash Xpress more than $2.2 million since 2015. Effinger never reported this work activity, or the income being derived from the business.
Between January 1, 2015, and June 24, 2022, Effinger allegedly fraudulently received approximately $72,839 in Social Security Disability benefits to which he was not entitled.
Effinger surrendered to NCDA Detective Investigators on October 2, 2023.
In a separate SSA fraud case, Obdulia Renkowski received monthly Social Security retirement benefits since 1981. Beginning in 2013, the payments were made through direct deposit into Renkowski’s bank account.
An investigation by the SSA OIG revealed that, since 2019, the SSA mailed multiple correspondence to Renkowski’s address in Valley Stream in an attempt to verify information regarding her benefits and did not receive a response. The office referred the case to NCDA.
NCDA investigators confirmed that Renkowski had died in January 2015 at her home in Valley Stream; however, monthly benefits continued to be deposited into the bank account, which was jointly controlled by Renkowski and Sevilla, the significant other of Renkowski’s son.
Sevilla allegedly failed to report Renkowski’s death to the SSA and, between her death on January 19, 2015, through October 3, 2022, Sevilla allegedly wrongfully received approximately $137,109 of Renkowski’s Social Security benefits to which she was not entitled.
Sevilla allegedly made withdrawals from the bank account during this time for debit card charges at Home Depot, Aboff Paints, and at local lumber yards. In 2016 and 2017, Sevilla held a New York City Department of Consumer Affairs home improvement salesperson license.
Sevilla surrendered to NCDA Detective Investigators on October 2.