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Owner of Kitsap County guardianship business pleads guilty to stealing from disabled and elderly clients

January 28, 2020

Office Affiliation: The Office of Investigations

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Washington:

Tacoma – A Kitsap County man who ran a business serving as a financial guardian for elderly or disabled clients pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to Social Security Fraud – Representative Payee Fraud. WAYNE JEROME HOUSTON, 61, of Port Ludlow, Washington owned and operated Cross Point Services LLC, a guardianship organization for disabled and vulnerable adults.  Between November 2010 and December 2018, HOUSTON stole as much as $280,000 from client accounts and used the money for his own expenses.  HOUSTON is scheduled for sentencing by U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton on April 17, 2020.

“This defendant stole from those he was supposed to protect at least 240 separate times,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran.  “He betrayed the clients who needed his help, as well as the Kitsap County Superior Court Judges who appointed him, believing he could be trusted to make sure disabled and vulnerable adults were protected.”

According to the plea agreement, HOUSTON and his company were responsible for managing the financial affairs of 15-20 clients a month.  HOUSTON had access to the clients’ bank accounts so he could pay rent, utilities and other bills for them.  Social Security benefits were paid into some of the accounts, for at least 13 clients who required a representative payee to manage their benefits.  HOUSTON was the representative payee for at least 13 disabled clients.  Beginning in 2010, HOUSTON used his position as guardian to write checks from the victim accounts to himself, to Cross Point Services, or to cash, and used ATMs to withdraw money from client accounts and used it for his own expenses.  HOUSTON targeted clients who had significant income or resources so that the theft was less likely to be detected.

The amount stolen is still under investigation but is between $150,000 and $280,941.   Of that, approximately $83,000 was Social Security Administration benefit funds.

Social Security Fraud – Representative Payee Fraud is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  Under the terms of the plea agreement prosecutors will recommend no more than 40 months in prison.  Judge Leighton  is not limited by the recommendation and the ultimate sentence will be determined by the Court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The case was investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG) and the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.  The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin Diggs.  Mr. Diggs is an attorney with the Social Security Administration specially designated to prosecute fraud cases in federal court.

Tacoma – A Kitsap County man who ran a business serving as a financial guardian for elderly or disabled clients pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to Social Security Fraud – Representative Payee Fraud. WAYNE JEROME HOUSTON, 61, of Port Ludlow, Washington owned and operated Cross Point Services LLC, a guardianship organization for disabled and vulnerable adults.  Between November 2010 and December 2018, HOUSTON stole as much as $280,000 from client accounts and used the money for his own expenses.  HOUSTON is scheduled for sentencing by U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton on April 17, 2020.

“This defendant stole from those he was supposed to protect at least 240 separate times,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran.  “He betrayed the clients who needed his help, as well as the Kitsap County Superior Court Judges who appointed him, believing he could be trusted to make sure disabled and vulnerable adults were protected.”

According to the plea agreement, HOUSTON and his company were responsible for managing the financial affairs of 15-20 clients a month.  HOUSTON had access to the clients’ bank accounts so he could pay rent, utilities and other bills for them.  Social Security benefits were paid into some of the accounts, for at least 13 clients who required a representative payee to manage their benefits.  HOUSTON was the representative payee for at least 13 disabled clients.  Beginning in 2010, HOUSTON used his position as guardian to write checks from the victim accounts to himself, to Cross Point Services, or to cash, and used ATMs to withdraw money from client accounts and used it for his own expenses.  HOUSTON targeted clients who had significant income or resources so that the theft was less likely to be detected.

The amount stolen is still under investigation but is between $150,000 and $280,941.   Of that, approximately $83,000 was Social Security Administration benefit funds.

Social Security Fraud – Representative Payee Fraud is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  Under the terms of the plea agreement prosecutors will recommend no more than 40 months in prison.  Judge Leighton  is not limited by the recommendation and the ultimate sentence will be determined by the Court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The case was investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG) and the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.  The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin Diggs.  Mr. Diggs is an attorney with the Social Security Administration specially designated to prosecute fraud cases in federal court.

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