By Logan Smith

DENVER (CBS4) – A 56-year-old Denver man, Harold Ortiz, was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison for threatening government workers after his Social Security benefits were terminated.

In response to Ortiz’s threats on Feb. 26, the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office at 1500 Champa Street in Denver was closed for two days.

Ortiz, according to his arrest affidavit, phoned the facility about his benefits and first spoke to a claims specialist. That person told Ortiz he was no longer entitled to receive benefits and that the SSA had several notices in the mail announcing the decision.

“I’m going to stand outside your building and blow all of your [expletive] heads off,” Ortiz reportedly yelled at the claims specialist. “You’re dealing with a crazy person!”

The claims specialist then attempted to trace and record the phone call but disconnected it instead.

Ortiz phoned back and demanded to speak with a district manager. That district manager told Ortiz that threats would not be tolerated.

Ortiz responded, “Denver PD will not come to my house because they know I will kill them! They know I am crazy!”

The downtown SSA office was closed March 1 and 2 for the protection of its employees and the public, the SSA stated in a press release.

“Mr. Ortiz threatened the lives of Social Security Administration officials for carrying out their official duties. This deplorable behavior not only caused fear in the lives of SSA personnel and their families, but resulted in the closure of that field office and the cancellation of dire need appointments for the public. This behavior will not be tolerated by my office and today’s sentence should stand as a warning to anyone who threatens an SSA official who is simply carrying out his or her duties,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the Social Security Administration.

A federal grand jury indicted Ortiz three and a half weeks after the incident. Ortiz signed a plea agreement with federal prosecutors on July 13. He was sentenced Oct. 6.

“Freedom of speech does not protect threatening to assault or murder a United States official,” stated Acting United States Attorney Matt Kirsch in a U.S. Department Of Justice press release. “Threatening to harm federal officials is a crime, and we will prosecute it.”

 

Logan Smith