Billy Jim Swann was convicted of perjury, wire fraud and Social Security fraud for applying for disability benefits, claiming he could not work, while guiding as many as 300 fishing trips a year in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska.
A fish tale spun by a prominent Northwest angler and fishing guide could land him in prison for years.
Billy Jim Swann, 53, was convicted Thursday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma of perjury, wire fraud and Social Security fraud for applying for disability benefits, claiming he could not work, while guiding as many as 300 fishing trips a year in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Bryan set sentencing for June 22. Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and perjury and Social Security fraud are punishable by up to five years in prison.
According to a federal indictment and testimony during his three-day trial, Swann, of Rainier, Thurston County, applied for Title II disability benefits in 2006, claiming a workplace accident had limited his daily activities to eating, resting and “trying to do a few things around the house.” He claimed his disability “interfered with his ability to stand, sit or walk, and that he had difficulty carrying on a conversation because of his inability to concentrate.”
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According to the indictment, Swann’s initial application for Social Security disability benefits was denied. He appealed to an administrative-law judge, and in 2009, while under oath, told the court that his only work activity consisted of “temporary, volunteer” work at an Alaska fishing camp for several weeks in the summer.
When the administrative-law judge denied the claim, Swann appealed to the U.S. District Court, which sent it back to the Social Security Administration for further proceedings.
“Billy Jim Swann failed to disclose anywhere in his application materials that he was operating a professional fishing guide service,” the indictment said.
All the while, Swann operated Swanny’s Guided Fishing, a year-round guide service and led as many as 300 excursions a year, according to the indictment and his Web page. Prosecutors say Swann has served as a professional representative of the fishing industry and has appeared on radio, television and as a speaker at fishing seminars.