Man pleads guilty to falsely claiming citizenship, getting $120,000 in benefits

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Posted Oct. 17, 2011, at 2:03 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A native of Antigua pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court to myriad counts that stemmed from his false claim to be a U.S. citizen.

Besouro Abdul Zagon, 52, aka Donald Benjamin, pleaded guilty to seven charges including aggravated identity theft, passport fraud and theft of student aid, health care benefits and nutrition assistance.

By pleading guilty, Zagon admitted receiving more than $120,000 in federal aid illegally.

He was indicted in April on 30 counts by a federal grand jury in Portland. In a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the remaining 23 will be dismissed when he is sentenced.

Zagon, then named Donald Benjamin, came to the U.S. in the late 1970s or early 1980s after attending a martial arts competition in Canada, according to the prosecution version of events to which he pleaded guilty. In 1986, he used the birth certificate and Social Security number of a Boston-born man whose last name also was Benjamin and was born in 1959, the month before Zagon was born, to obtain a U.S. passport. Five years later, he had his name changed in a Massachusetts court to Besouro Abdul Zagon for religious reasons, according to court documents.

In August 2001, Zagon, his wife and five children moved to Portland from Massachusetts after he obtained Social Security numbers for the children. Upon arriving in Portland, the family received federal housing assistance after Zagon falsely stated that he and his children, all of whom were born in Antigua between September 1990 and October 1996, were U.S. citizens.

The family began receiving MaineCare and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in 2002, according to court documents. Two years later, Zagon applied for and received financial aid to study massage therapy. To qualify for all of those programs, Zagon lied about his citizenship.

The man whose identity Zagon stole years ago complained in 2005 to police in Oswego, Ill., and to the Social Security Administration that he was a victim of identity theft, according to court documents. That sparked the investigation which led to a search of Zagon’s home in May 2010, where investigators found documentation of his crimes.

Zagon agreed to waive his right to appeal his sentence as long as it is three years and nine months or less, according to court documents.

He remains free on $10,000 unsecured bail while awaiting sentencing, which is not expected to be scheduled until after the first of the year.

After serving his sentence, Zagon is expected to be deported. His children will be allowed to remain in the U.S. as long as they obey the law.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/10/17/news/portland/antiguan-pleads-guilty-to-falsely-claiming-u-s-citizenship-getting-fed-benefits/ printed on July 25, 2014