Former Meriden city council candidate pleads guilty to stealing benefits, tax fraud

Former Meriden city council candidate pleads guilty to stealing benefits, tax fraud


MERIDEN — City resident and former City Council candidate Joseph Luca plead guilty to federal charges Friday at the U.S. District Court in Hartford. Luca was charged with stealing Social Security disability benefits and tax fraud.

Luca, 68, claimed in April 1993 he was disabled and unable to work, according to a press release from the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut. Between January 2002 and April 2011, Luca also reported he remained unable to work and earned no income.

However, according to the statement, Luca earned more than $1,000 a month as a hairdresser at a salon that he and his wife owned and operated. According to Record-Journal files, the couple owned Josef Salon and Spa on West Main Street. The statement said Luca was not entitled to receive Social Security Disability Insurance based on his earnings exceeding the allowable threshold.

An undercover investigation was performed, finding that Luca usually opened the salon mornings between Tuesday and Saturday each week and closed the shop at night. The statement said Luca told an undercover agent he styled hair for 45 years and the agent reported he worked “without the assistance of a cane or similar device.”

It was found Luca and his children, who were considered auxiliary beneficiaries, were paid a total of $122,332 that they were not entitled to receive. The Social Security Disability Insurance was terminated in May 2011.

Between 2006 and 2009, Luca also failed to report more than $675,000 in additional taxable income, the press release stated. Luca reported a loss and no tax due, but an investigation showed he did not report income from rental real estate, his work as a private investigator, interest on bank accounts, Social Security Disability Insurance payments, and capital gains on rental properties.

As a result of the undocumented income, Luca plead guilty to one count of stealing government money and one count of filing a false federal tax return. He was released and faces a maximum of 13 years in prison and fine of up to $500,000 when he is sentenced on Oct. 3. Luca has also agreed to pay $122,3332 in restitution to the Social Security Administration, $64,093 in back taxes, and penalties and interest on both.

Luca ran for City Council in Area 1 on multiple occasions as a member of the We the People Party. He is also well-known for his military accomplishments, earning the nation’s second-highest decoration, the Navy Cross.

In 1967, during the Vietnam War, Luca carried four wounded members of his Marine platoon to safety under heavy fire. Luca was given numerous recognitions for his bravery and for saving the members of his platoon despite being wounded in the process.

Luca said he had no comment Friday. (203) 317-2266 Twitter: @DanBrechlinRJ

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