David M. Disney, 45, claimed that a head injury kept him from working. But he renewed his New Jersey private detective’s license twice. And on behalf of a client, he even testified before the New York State Worker’s Compensation Board.
When Disney finally reported that he’d returned to work, he was still working the system, court records suggest. He told the Social Security Administration in January 2007 that he had begun putting in 15 to 20 hours a week and earning a paltry $10 an hour. In reality, he worked more than 150 hours during one two-week period in 2007, bringing in more than $19,800 — about $132 an hour.
From 2003 to 2008, he collected more than $144,000 in disability payments. He was indicted January by a federal grand jury and faces charges of conspiracy to commit Social Security disability fraud.
No. 3: The Lawmaker
Missouri representative Raymond E. Salva may have been breaking the law even as he created it.
The Democrat served from 2003 to 2010 in the Missouri statehouse, earning around $30,000 a year. But throughout his time in office, Salva also allegedly received $60,000 in disability payments for a neck injury he claimed kept him from holding a job, according to the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General.
Salva was indicted last November and faces multiple charges, including Social Security disability fraud.
No. 2: “I Forgot.”
When James W. Smith of Minnesota was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2005, he responded heroically. Or so it seemed . . .
He gave speeches and interviews about early-onset Alzheimer’s, lobbied and spoke at conferences, and even led a support group, according to the Star Tribune. The Twin Cities’ news channel KARE-11 TV named Smith a “health-care hero,” honoring him for his advocacy.
In November 2009, a psychologist reported to the Social Security Administration that Smith was “unshaven, struggled with simple questions, and spoke haltingly,” the Star Tribune reports.
But a few months before, Smith had competently represented himself in his own divorce proceedings. He had also bought an 80-acre farm. And when an undercover agent paid Smith two visits in 2010, he found that the purported Alzheimer’s patient was articulate and sharp.
By that point, Smith had received more than $144,000 in SSA disability payments, as well as more than $300,000 in private insurance benefits.
Smith pled guilty last August to theft of government funds, claiming that when he realized he did not have the disease in early 2008, he kept up the act so he could continue to receive his $6,773 monthly check.
No. 1: This Guy
The Office of the Attorney General in Utah caught this false claimant after he posted YouTube videos of himself playing air guitar and dancing in a foil suit.
— Jillian Kay Melchior is a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.