Washington Couple Indicted For Allegedly Stealing Disability Payments

Date: 
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Office Affiliation: 

In charging papers filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, federal prosecutors allege that the owners of Friday Harbor's Criminal Coffee - Ramona Hayes and Cory Eglash - stole and conspired to steal Social Security disability payments from the U.S. Government.

And, yes, the couple really did name their business Criminal Coffee.

Specifically, prosecutors contend that by misrepresenting Hayes' "employment status and physical and psychological capacity," the duo tricked the U.S. Social Security Administration into paying approximately $36,000 in Title II Disability benefits that she was never entitled to. The indictment alleges Eglash also applied for disability payments, but when it was discovered that both he and Hayes owned Criminal Coffee and were both actively working there, the duo's scheme was discovered.

Because of these alleged misdeeds, prosecutors have charged Hayes and Eglash with one count of Conspiracy to Defraud the U.S. Government, five counts of Felony Theft of Government Funds, and one count of providing false statements to the United States. Arraignment for Hayes and Eglash has been set for Valentine's Day.

According to prosecutors, Hayes and Eglash - who were not legally married by "held themselves out to the community as husband and wife" - purchased their Friday Harbor coffee shop in February, 2010. In documents filed with the Social Security Administration, the feds claim Hayes and Eglash maintained they were simply friends who could validate each other's claims of disability. The indictment indicates Hayes claimed to be unable to work due to anxiety, depression and PTSD, filing paperwork that said "most days I cannot leave the house and cannot accomplish anything due to depression and anxiety."

Additionally, the indictment indicates Eglash claimed to suffer from severe migraines and spasms in his neck, claiming in disability paperwork that, "I am almost homebound."

Though federal prosecutors paint a picture of a couple attempting to hide the fact they were actively working business owners, apparently they weren't attempting to hide this from everyone - like the local paper.

"We want to make it family style, with more of a homey feel, like going to a friend's house where you come in and have a cup of coffee with us," Hayes told the San Juan Journal the same month the coffee shop was purchased, despite the fact that, according to the feds, she was simultaneously telling the Social Security Administration that she'd been unable to work since 2007.

The San Juan Journal story goes on to explain the Criminal Coffee name, reporting: "Eglash said he and Hayes chose the name to put to rest stories that circulated locally about Hayes' background after she proposed starting a transportation service for senior citizens here. In July 2003, she pleaded guilty in Carson City, Nev., to embezzling $1,200 from a senior services-related non-profit of which she was president, and to forging a letter indicating another organization she was associated with had received a grant to build a new senior center. She was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay restitution. She had no prior convictions."

Messages left at the number listed for Criminal Coffee seeking comment were not returned. The number reached a voice mailbox featuring a message recorded by a woman identifying herself as Hayes.

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