A federal grand jury thinks prominent Northwest angler and fishing guide Billy Jim Swann has been telling a fish tale of his own.
Swann pleaded not guilty Wednesday in federal court in Tacoma to charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, Social Security fraud and perjury for alleging 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 trial for Oct. 2.
A federal indictment handed up this past month alleges Swann, of Rainier, Thurston County, applied for Title II disability benefits in 2006, claiming a workplace accident has limited his daily activities to eating, resting and “trying to do a few things around the house.” His application, according to the court document, said that 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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“Billy Jim Swann failed to disclose anywhere in his application materials that he was operating a professional fishing guide service,” the indictment claims.
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.
A telephone message left for Swann seeking comment was not immediately returned.
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.
In district-court pleadings in 2012, Swann submitted documents stating that his fishing-guide service had been “an unsuccessful work attempt” and that he was not working otherwise. In another hearing, Swann reportedly said he hadn’t worked since 2007.
Prosecutors allege that his guide service made more than $750,000 between 2006 and 2016.
He’s charged with two counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud for allegedly filing false documents with the Social Security Administration; a single count of Social Security fraud for allegedly concealing his work history; and perjury for purportedly lying about his work history under oath to an administrative-law judge.