Howard Skaw Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Court
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Missoula, on November 20, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen, HOWARD SKAW, a resident of Hamilton, pled guilty to misdemeanor aiding and abetting the theft of public funds. Sentencing has been set for March 8, 2013.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
Between 1995 and 2009, Layne Housel received disability payments for himself and his minor children related to degenerative disc disease that prevented him from working. Pursuant to the terms of his continued eligibility to receive disability payments, Housel had to periodically update his status and report whether his condition had changed.
Beginning in 1997, Housel declared employment as a part-time butcher in Hamilton. He reported only $180 in wages per month, which, at that time, was the minimum amount that could be reported without triggering a reassessment of his disability status by the Social Security Administration (SSA). He would later report $200, and then $220 per month as the SSA threshold amounts indicating "substantial gainful activity" increased.
Eventually, SSA officials became aware that Housel was working more than he was reporting. SSA asked Housel to update his work status. Housel reported no new information and reiterated his previous statements about working 2 hours a day for about $200 per month. The SSA also contacted his employer, SKAW, who was also the owner of the business. SKAW submitted a report indicating the same thing that Housel had stated - that Housel worked only a couple hours a day for a couple hundred dollars a month. In an interview in 2009 with SSA, Housel stuck to the story that he only worked 2 hours a day for about $200 per month.
A search was conducted at the business. Records there indicated that Housel was working far more than he reported to the SSA and that SKAW was paying him cash "under the table" for any amounts above the SSA minimum threshold to qualify for disability payments.
Several former employees at the business confirmed that Housel worked far more than the limited amount reported to SSA.
The cash payments dwarfed the payroll checks. For instance, in November of 2007, Housel was paid nearly $5,000, while he reported only $200.
In a second interview, SKAW admitted that he had lied on Housel's behalf and had mis-stated Housel's true work hours and earnings in an effort to help Housel make ends meet.
Housel pled guilty to federal charges.
SKAW faces possible penalties of 1 year in prison, a $100,000 fine and 1 year supervised release.
The investigation was conducted by the Social Security Administration - Office of Inspector General.