(CNSNews.com) – Raymond E. Salva, a former Democratic member of the Missouri House of Representatives, has pleaded guilty to illegally taking $58,816 in federal disability payments while he was working as a state legislator earning $30,000 a year, according to the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration.
In a plea agreement reached on June 26, Salva agreed to pay $58,816 in restitution to the Social Security Administration (SSA) but he also still faces sentencing, which could include imprisonment of 10 years without parole and a fine up to $250,000.
When Salva was indicted back in November 2012, the acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, David Ketchmark, said: “An elected official who is entrusted to make the law must also follow the law. This kind of deceit and illegal double-dipping from the public coffers is nothing less than theft. Today’s indictment alleges that, while purportedly serving the public, he was actually stealing from the taxpayers and betraying the trust of the voters.”
Salva was approved for Social Security disability payments in February 2000, claiming that he had suffered a neck injury in a farm accident. However, in 2002 Salva was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives and he served there as Democratic legislator (District 51) from 2003 through 2010, earning $30,000 a year in compensation. All the while, he received monthly disability payments from the SSA.
In May 2003, about five months after he started working as a state representative, the SSA conducted a review to find out whether Salva was still eligible for disability payments. “As part of that review, Salva completed a form in which he affirmed that he was not able to return to work and that he had not done any work since being disabled,” reads a press release from the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
Nearly two years went by and Salva continued to get the disability payments every month. Then, in December 2004, the SSA discovered earnings posted to Salva’s record and sent him a letter inquiring about his work activity. “Salva responded that he had conferred with an SSA representative, who told him that public service would not affect his disability benefits,” reads the statement from the OIG. “Salva admitted today [June 26,2013] that this statement was false and that he did not confer with an SSA representative who told him that working as a legislator was in some way exempted.”
Salva continued to receive disability payments in 2005, 2006, 2007, and through February 2008. At that point, the SSA sent a letter to Salva notifying him of the over-payments, and then sent another letter billing him for the nearly $59,000 in over-payment. Salva did not leave the Missouri house of Representatives until December 2010.
Salva appealed the SSA’s over-payment claim to an administrative law judge. And on Jan. 3, 2011, he completed a new application for Social Security disability. He subsequently withdrew that application in February 2011. In April of that year the administrative law judge found Salva “at fault in causing the overpayment,” states the OIG release.
In June of this year, Salva entered his plea agreement with the U.S. attorney's office for the Western District of Missouri.