Layne Housel Sentenced in U.S. District Court
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Missoula, on March 8, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen, LAYNE HOUSEL, a 61-year-old resident of Philipsburg, appeared for sentencing. HOUSEL was sentenced to a term of:
Prison: 12 months and 1 day
Special Assessment: $100
Supervised Release: 3 years
HOUSEL was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to Social Security disability fraud.
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, 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 HOUSEL's employer. The employer 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 his employer 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, his employer 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.
Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that HOUSEL will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, HOUSEL does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for "good behavior." However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.
The investigation was conducted by the Social Security Administration - Office of Inspector General.