Sunday, March 9, 2014
PORTLAND — A Portland man faces as much as 15 years in prison and deportation back to his native Antigua on charges that he stole another man's identity, then obtained $250,000 in government housing, medical, food and education benefits reserved for U.S. citizens.
Besouro Abdul Zagon, 52, was charged Monday in U.S. District Court on a 30-count indictment accusing him of, among other things, theft, identity theft and impersonating a U.S. citizen to gain federal benefits.
Zagon, who is originally from the Caribbean island, has been using an Illinois man's Social Security number since 1986, when he first got a passport in the name of Earl Benjamin Jr., according to a complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Zagon was born Donald Benjamin in Antigua in 1959. He changed his name in 1991 to Besouro Abdul Zagon for spiritual reasons, he told investigators, according to the complaint.
The complaint is based on information compiled by Travis Bartlett, a special agent in the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service's Boston office. It says federal officials learned of the possible identity theft in 2009, when the real Earl Benjamin Jr. applied for a passport and was told that multiple passports had already been issued to him over the years.
Those passports, investigators now believe, bear Zagon's picture.
Authorities searched Zagon's home on Newton Street a year ago and seized documents, including a copy of Earl Benjamin Jr.'s birth certificate.
Investigators interviewed Zagon, and said he admitted to using the other man's identity since 1986.
Zagon is in this country illegally, so he was not entitled to the government benefits he was provided over the past 10 years, the complaint says. Those benefits include $76,000 in housing vouchers, $66,000 in health benefits, $51,000 in food assistance and $58,000 in education assistance.
Zagon worked for Goodwill Industries, earning about $23,000 a year. He has five children, who were born in Antigua, the complaint says. He told investigators the family moved to this country in 2001.
The children were granted citizenship based on Zagon's fraudulent citizenship, the complaint says.
Zagon has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial on July 5. A call to his court-appointed attorney was not returned Monday.
Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org