The former owner of a restaurant in the region has pleaded guilty to fraud.
Pablo Razo Fierro admitted to continuing to collect social security disability benefits, despite opening and running a successful restaurant in Muskegon, Pablo’s Tacos, since 2004, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Michigan, which is part of the Department of Justice, said yesterday.
The DOJ said Fierro applied for and began receiving disability benefits in 1996, after claiming he had a back injury that prevented him from working.
But in 2004, he opened Pablo’s Tacos, which became a successful business venture for Fierro.
The DOJ said in an interview with Fierro, he admitted to concealing his employment from the Social Security Administration, so he could continue to collect disability benefits, which he used to make car payments and pay for other personal expenses.
Investigation and search
Fierro’s downfall came after he gave an interview in 2008 to the Muskegon Chronicle, where he noted “working long hours, nearly seven days a week,” since opening the restaurant.
The Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General opened an investigation and discovered he’d been fraudulently receiving disability payments for years.
In 2012, after plea negotiations broke down, Fierro disappeared.
He was located and arrested in Twin Lake, Mich. on June 30 by the U.S. Marshals Service.
Fierro told the DOJ that he fled to Mexico to avoid prosecution.
He had returned to Michigan after being mistakenly advised by family members that there was no pending warrant for his arrest.
Fierro now faces up to five years in prison.
The amount of restitution he must pay will be determined at his sentencing, the date of which was not provided by the DOJ.