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Dozens arrested in Puerto Rico for alleged Social Security fraud

SAN JUAN (Reuters) - U.S. federal authorities arrested 74 people in 25 towns across Puerto Rico early on Wednesday in an operation aimed at combating the abuse of Social Security and disability benefits.

Agents from the FBI and the Social Security Administration participated in the sweep, which targeted 70 beneficiaries, a doctor, a therapist and two psychiatrists, said FBI spokesman Moises Quinoñes.

Wednesday's actions are part of a wider crackdown on disability fraud on the island.

Puerto Rico is home to nine of the top 10 U.S. zip codes for disabled workers receiving benefits, according to The Wall Street Journal. The percentage of disabled workers and the approval rating for awards in Puerto Rico are both well above the U.S. average, according to authorities.

In 2011, the Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General put together a special investigation team to probe disability fraud in Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth. Last week, the FBI and SSA raided several medical offices in the San Juan area to execute search warrants.

The latest arrests involve "various charges related to filing false Social Security claims, including Social Security fraud and theft of U.S. government property," Quinoñes added.

"We are talking about a scheme here involving doctors and medical offices, like X-ray laboratories," he said. "The person claims to have certain medical conditions to get Social Security disability benefits when they don't have these conditions."

(Reporting by Reuters in San Juan, editing by G Crosse)

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