Rogers Fishing Guide Sentenced For Embezzling Social Security Benefits

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) — A Rogers fishing guide was sentenced Wednesday (June 12) to one year in jail and ordered to pay restitution for embezzling more than $120,000 in Social Security disability funds.

Mike Wayne Bailey, 49, pleaded guilty in January in U.S. District Court to one count of theft of government funds, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

As part of his plea agreement, prosecutors dismissed charges of concealment of material fact and making false statements to the government.

Bailey’s prison sentence will be followed by three years of supervised release.

Judge Tim Brooks also ordered Bailey to amend past tax returns related to his offense and barred him from incurring any new debut until he’s paid off the restitution.

Prosecutors said Bailey stole about $123,181 in benefits, which 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 with his proclaimed mental limitations, according to court documents.

Bailey was required to notify the U.S. Social Security Administration if his condition improved or if he returned to work. Prosecutors said Bailey claimed as of July 2017 he hadn’t worked in 12 years.

Bailey’s defense attorney said his client never intended to defraud the SSA, but his occupation as a fishing guide evolved organically after some friends asked him to take some out-of-town visitors out on Beaver Lake.

They said Bailey, who has underdone intense back surgery, continued to work through his pain, which included several hours of community service to keep kids off of drugs through fishing.

Bailey is free on bond but must self-surrender to authorities on July 15.

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