A Washington man has been found guilty of filing false disability claims while continuing to work and even playing basketball, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Washington.
Cory Eglash and his girlfriend Ramona Hayes, owners of the presciently named “Criminal Coffee,” were indicted last year for making false claims to the government in order to illegally obtain thousands of dollars in disability benefits.
Thursday, Eglash was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the government, mail fraud and making false statements to the government after a four-day trial, which ended with two hours of jury deliberation. Hayes was also charged but pleaded guilty in advance of the trial.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, both parties filed claims with the Social Security Administration saying they were disabled and unable to work. Eglash also made verification statements on behalf of Hayes’ disability claim.
Hayes’ application, filed in early 2011, claimed she was unable to work with the public or even go outside. Eglash’s application, filed in November of 2011, claimed he was disabled and “almost home-bound,” unable to work or play sports.
Despite their claims, the Security Administration Office of Inspector General found that not only did Eglash and Hayes work at their restaurant, but Eglash also worked at a San Juan Island public aquarium. And the same week he submitted his application for disability, he played two full-court pick-up basketball games at the local community center.
Prosecutors showed video of the pair working in their restaurant at trial.
While Eglash’s application was never approved, Hayes was able to illegally collect $42,000 in benefits before their jig was up.
The total number of people receiving federal disability benefits in the U.S. hit a record 10.98 million in December.
Conspiracy to defraud the U.S. carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, mail fraud up to 20 years, and making false statements to the government is punishable by up to five years in prison.