Former State Lawmaker Pleads Guilty to Social Security Fraud
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a former state legislator from Sugar Creek, Mo., pleaded guilty in federal court today to receiving Social Security disability payments while serving in the Missouri Legislature.
Raymond E. Salva, 65, of Sugar Creek, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple to the charge of theft of government money.
Salva began working as a Missouri state representative in January 2003 and held that office through December 2010. While he was earning more than $30,000 a year for his work in the legislature, Salva received $58,816 in disability payments to which he was not entitled.
Salva admitted that he intentionally failed to report and concealed his earnings and work activity as a state legislator. Salva admitted today that he deliberately closed his eyes to what would otherwise have been obvious to him. He was not merely negligent, careless or mistaken as to whether he was eligible to receive Social Security disability payments, Salva admitted. Rather, he took deliberate actions to avoid confirming the high probability of wrongdoing in this case.
The Social Security Administration approved Salva’s application for disability insurance benefits in February 2000. Salva claimed he was disabled and unable to work due to a neck injury sustained in a farm accident. In May 2003, approximately five months after Salva began his first term as a state representative, the Social Security Administration conducted a continuing disability review in order to determine whether Salva remained eligible to receive disability payments. As part of that review, Salva completed a form in which he affirmed that he was not able to return to work and that he had not done any work since being disabled.
In October 2003, SSA determined that Salva’s disability was continuing based on a review of his records and the information he provided. In making this determination, SSA relied, in part, on the defendant’s false claim that he had not worked since he became disabled. SSA sent a letter to Salva informing him of this decision and reminding him to report any work activity, regardless of the amount of earnings. SSA continued to pay Salva disability benefits, not knowing that he was working at a substantial gainful activity level.
In December 2004, SSA discovered that earnings had been posted to Salva’s record and sent him a letter asking about his work activity. Salva responded that he had conferred with an SSA representative, who told him that public service would not affect his disability benefits. Salva admitted today that this statement was false and that he did not confer with an SSA representative who told him that working as a legislator was in some way exempted.
On March 16, 2008, the Social Security Administration sent Salva a letter notifying him of the overpayment he accrued from January 2004 through February 2008. The letter stated that Salva received benefit payments that he was not due. The Social Security Administration sent Salva a billing statement on Sept. 4, 2008.
Salva appealed the overpayment decision and testified before an Administrative Law Judge at two administrative hearings. Salva admitted today that a number of his statements during those hearings were false, including claims that he did not receive disability payments in some months. On April 11, 2011 the Administrative Law Judge issued a decision finding Salva at fault in causing the overpayment.
Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, Salva must pay $58,816 in restitution to the Social Security Administration prior to his sentencing hearing. Salva is subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Trey Alford and Kate Hoey. It was investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations.