FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) — An Arkansas fishing guide has admitted to embezzling more than $120,000 in Social Security disability benefits even though he worked eight of the 13 years he received income.
Mike Wayne Bailey pleaded guilty Wednesday (Jan. 9) in U.S. District Court to one count of theft of government funds, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Prosecutors said Bailey stole about $123,181. The benefits are paid to people who can’t work because they have a medical condition that’s expected to last one year or result in death, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA).
Bailey first applied for the benefits in 2003 but was denied. He appealed the decision, got evaluated by a different doctor and was approved to receive benefits in 2005.
In 2008, however, he applied for a resident fishing guide license from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and subsequently went to work as a fishing guide, court documents show.
Last spring, Bailey told two undercover officers he had been a self-employed fishing guide since 2010, often making three to four trips per week.
The officers said they observed Bailey work as a fishing guide for more than four hours, noting that he completed “many tasks that he claimed he was unable to do” while “exhibiting a degree of mental acuity inconsistent wit his proclaimed mental limitations, according to court documents.
Bailey was required to notify the U.S. Social Security Administration if his condition improved or returned to work. Prosecutors said Bailey claimed as of July 2017 he hadn’t worked in 12 years.
As part of his plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to dismiss charges of concealing material facts and making false statements to the SSA.
Bailey faces up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
A sentencing hearing hasn’t been set.