You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Virginia

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Owner of EMATS Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy and Tax Charges

Jonathan Bowerbank, Tazewell Co. Business Owner, Conspired to Defraud Social Security Administration and Impede the Internal Revenue Service

ABINGDON, VIRGINIA – A local business owner, who employed at least one person he knew was receiving federal disability benefits, pled guilty today in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Abingdon to conspiracy and tax charges, United States Attorney John P. Fishwick Jr. announced.

Jonathan I. Bowerbank, of Rosedale, Va., pled guilty today to one count of conspiracy to defraud the Social Security Administration and one count of impeding internal revenue laws.

“The disability benefit provided by the Social Security Administration is meant to be a source of stability for those too disabled to work. It is not a means for paid employees to supplement their income,” United States Attorney Fishwick said today. “We will continue to devote resources to ridding the system of fraud and abuse, and will continue to hold accountable employers who falsely report wages so that employees may continue to collect disability benefits to which they are not entitled.” 

According to evidence presented at today’s guilty plea hearing by Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer R. Bockhorst, Bowerbank has been the controlling owner and president of EMATS Inc., since November 1998. From 2003 to 2012, Bowerbank employed Billy Vance and Brenda Vance, who were his next door neighbors.

Billy Vance had been collecting disability benefits since 1987. To hide the fact that Billy Vance was gainfully employed, EMATS Inc. reported all of the payments for the work performed by Billy Vance on Brenda Vance’s Form W-2. This had the effect of hiding Billy Vance’s ability to work from the Social Security Administration   As a result, Billy Vance received $186,677.10 in disability benefits to which he was not entitled.  Billy Vance and Brenda Vance previously pled guilty to disability fraud charges and repaid the government all of the money fraudulently obtained.

Bowerbank also admitted today that he failed to properly report to EMATS bookkeepers which credit card expenses were personal expenses rather than business expenses.  As a result, Bowerbank’s income was underreported on three years of his tax returns.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations and the Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General.  Assistant United States Attorneys Jennifer R. Bockhorst and Randy Ramseyer, as well Gregory E. Tortella and Joseph M. Giannullo, trial attorneys for the Department of Justice’s Tax Division, prosecuted the case for the United States.

Updated August 16, 2016