Lawn Care Business Owner Pleads Guilty to Lying to Receive Workers' Compensation Benefits
LAFAYETTE, La. –United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced that a Breaux Bridge man pleaded guilty to falsely claiming he was unemployed in order to continue receiving workers’ compensation benefits even though he owned and operated a lawn care business.
Mervin J. Noel, 51, of Breaux Bridge, La., entered a conditional guilty plea Tuesday to one count of making false statements to continue receiving workers’ compensation benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act to U.S. Magistrate Judge C. Michael Hill. The plea will become final when accepted by U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth E. Foote.
According to evidence presented at the guilty plea, Noel began receiving workers’ compensation and Social Security disability benefits after sustaining an injury while working on an offshore oil platform in 1994. In 2007, Noel began operating a lawn care business without informing either the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation (LWCC) or Social Security Administration that he was employed and earning income. Noel instead falsely reported on four occasions to LWCC officials that he had no earnings from employment. Noel also falsely reported to Social Security Administration officials on April 11, 2014 that he had not worked since becoming disabled. Noel received $20,776 in workers’ compensation benefits and $118,220 in Social Security benefits to which he was not entitled.
Noel faces up to five years in prison, three years supervised release, and a $10,000 fine. A sentencing date of February 6, 2015 has been set.
The investigation was conducted by the Social Security Administration. Assistant U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph is prosecuting the case.