From the U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington:
Tacoma – An Olalla, Washington man is under arrest on a criminal complaint charging him with aggravated identity theft and access device fraud for his scheme to steal the identity and income of his missing brother. CHRIS HARVEY SAYLER, 72, allegedly began fraudulently collecting his missing brother’s Social Security Disability benefits by at least 1998. Over the last twenty years, those benefits total more than $400,000. SAYLER made his initial appearance on the criminal complaint in U.S. District Court in Tacoma today. He remains detained pending a further hearing on Friday October 4, 2019.
According to the complaint, CHRIS SAYLER’s brother, Jarvis L. Sayler, traveled from his home in Missouri to the Vancouver, Washington area in 1988. He told relatives that he planned to visit CHRIS SAYLER, then return to Missouri to build a home on property there. Jarvis Sayler was born with partial eyesight, and had been receiving Social Security disability benefits since 1977. Jarvis Sayler wrote a few letters to Missouri between June and September 1988, but that was the last anyone heard from him. A third brother in Missouri reported Jarvis Sayler missing in March of 1989. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office interviewed CHRIS SAYLER about his brother’s whereabouts. SAYLER claimed his brother moved from his home after the two had an argument. That was the last reported sighting of Jarvis Sayler.
In 2013, a person claiming to be Jarvis Sayler attempted to renew a Washington State ID card, but the renewal was denied because facial recognition software indicated the person in the ID photo was the same as in a drivers license photo of CHRIS SAYLER. When SAYLER went to a Department of Licensing Office to renew a license (in the SAYLER name) years later, he claimed that he and Jarvis were twins and that was the reason for the facial recognition report. The clerk pointed out that the two men’s birthdates were four years apart, but SAYLER said it is a “rare twin situation” that does occur. The investigation has revealed that SAYLER and Jarvis Sayler are not biologically related.
In 2019, the Department of Licensing referred the matter to the Social Security Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG) for investigation. The investigation revealed that as early as 1998, SAYLER’s photo appears on Jarvis Sayler’s identification card and that the addresses on Jarvis’ cards and other identifying documents are associated with SAYLER.
Since at least 1998, Jarvis Sayler’s Social Security benefits went to a bank account opened with an address in Vancouver, Washington. When SAYLER moved to Olalla, the address on the account was updated to the new address as well. ATM withdrawal records and debit card records from retailers such as Costco and Fred Meyer show SAYLER withdrawing money or making purchases with the debit card associated with Jarvis Sayler’s account.
Access device fraud is punishable by up to ten years in prison. Aggravated identity theft is punishable by a mandatory minimum two-year sentence to run consecutive to any other sentencing in the case.
The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office is interested in hearing from anyone who has information on Jarvis Sayler and his disappearance. Contact Detective Jon Shields at 564-397-2120.
The case is being investigated by the Social Security Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG), Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) as part of the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force in Seattle. Investigative assistance was also provided by the FBI and Sheriff’s Offices for Clark County, Cowlitz County, and Kitsap County.
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.