One That Didn’t Get Away

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You’ve probably heard someone tell a whale of a story about an encounter with a fish that got away. On the flip side, we read about a successful Northwest fishing guide that almost got away with Social Security fraud in today’s “Fraud of the Day” article. Fortunately, the government had a big net and was able to reel the fisherman in after seeing a video of him catching an endangered fish online.

The successful fisherman and businessman had previously claimed to be generally unable to move and applied for Social Security disability benefits in 2006. The article says he swore to his statement under oath, even though he volunteered several weeks at a time at an Alaskan summer camp. (Apparently, the Social Security Administration was on to him and denied his claim twice. However, the fisherman persisted.)

The fisherman, who has more than 30 years of experience as a fishing guide, is also well known in the Pacific Northwest as a professional representative of the fishing industry. He previously appeared on radio, television and as a speaker at fishing seminars. (I guess you could say he was an expert on fishing. He was definitely not an expert on fraud.)

The guide was evidently so busy leading as many as 300 fishing trips in the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska that he neglected to pay any state or federal taxes on his income. (That’s the same income he was earning while claiming he was unable to move.) Just in one year, the defendant made $92,503 by serving as a fishing guide.

The 53-year-old fisherman’s guided tours soon ended when he mistakenly posted photos of himself catching an endangered species of fish – that is protected federally by the Endangered Species Act and state law – online. (Note to self: if you’re doing something illegal, don’t post a picture of yourself committing the illegal act. Need I say more?)

The fraudster from the Pacific Northwest will serve one year and one day in federal prison for trying to commit Social Security fraud. He also has to pay a fine of $7,500. While many fishermen practice the “catch and release” method to return a fish to the water unharmed, the government had a different technique in mind for today’s fraudster. (You could say that the justice system’s method of catching fraudsters uses a “catch and detain” method. Let’s hope the formerly successful guide takes the bait and learns how to act responsibly and in an ethical manner.)

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, Fishing guide sentenced to federal prison for Social Security and disability fraud scheme,” published by The Seattle Times on August 24, 2018.

A successful Northwest fishing guide will serve a year and a day in federal prison after he was caught trying to game the Social Security system.

Billy Jim Swann was sentenced Friday in the U.S. District Court in Tacoma. In March, Swann was convicted of with perjury, wire fraud, and Social Security fraud.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.