NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Officials have gone from seeing double to seeing red.

A Queens man cheated the government for 20 years by impersonating his dead twin brother, authorities said.

Thomas Murphy, 52, is accused of using his dead twin brother Robert’s social security number and signing up for welfare benefits in his name.

Robert Murphy died in 1962 shortly after being born.

Thomas Murphy signed up for benefits under his dead brother’s name in 1994, authorities said. He continued to impersonate him for more than 18 years, collecting benefits until November 2013, according to officials.

Murphy collected the benefits while he also was earning $80,000 year at the Department of Sanitation, authorities said.

“This is an outrageous theft of benefits, moneys that are intended for those truly in need,” said Acting Welfare Inspector General Scott.  “The defendant is charged with stealing more than a half million dollars in welfare benefits; utilizing an intricate plot to ensure a constant cash flow of government benefits he was not entitled to, and by assuming a false identity for nearly two decades.”

“With so many needy New Yorkers requiring affordable housing and assistance to put food on the table and pay for medical expenses, the City, State and Federal governments will not be tricked into providing support to persons who can well afford to pay their own way,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Murphy faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

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