For 17 years, the Social Security Administration sent disability payments to a Bend real estate man who worked long hours, played golf, fished, hunted and once boasted of a 6,488-mile cross-country trip by motorcycle.
On Tuesday, 55-year-old Richard Todd Rawlins stood before a federal judge in Portland to be punished for theft of government funds.
Rawlins began collecting government checks after a 1988 plane crash left him with severe burns over 70 percent of his body. But he returned to real estate work, claiming in a 1998 home refinance that he earned $12,300 per month, according to bank papers obtained by federal agents.
Investigators discovered that he had renewed his pilot's license (after passing extensive medical exams) and got hunting and fishing licenses.
Still Rawlins accepted disability payments.
Then in 2010, Social Security personnel reviewed his eligibility. Rawlins failed to disclose the money he earned in real estate and as property manager at Cascade Meadow Ranch in Sisters, and he didn't report the ranch earnings on his federal tax returns, according to a government sentencing memorandum.
A prosecutor urged U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones to send Rawlins to prison, while his defense lawyer asked for probation.
Jones split the difference. He sentenced Rawlins to six months of home confinement, five years of probation and ordered him to serve 100 hours of community service. Jones also ordered him to repay $176,607 in fraudulently obtained benefits.
Social Security's disability programs are designed to put people back on their feet, said Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Helen L. Cooper. But Rawlins took advantage, she said.
"He used his physical disfigurement basically to fool Social Security into paying him benefits much, much longer than he was entitled," Cooper said.