When Billy Jim Swann was sentenced this March to pay a $7,500 fine for killing two wild coho caught by his clients on the Cowlitz in October 2014 there was a hint that the feds had even bigger fish to fry with the fishing guide.
Court documents alleged the Yelm-based operator of Swanny’s Guided Fishing had lied under oath several years before to try and get disability payments while he was actively running hundreds of trips and managing an Alaskan salmon camp.
The papers were introduced late in his case and were meant to provide background for U.S. District Court Judge Karen L. Strombom in Tacoma as she weighed federal prosecutor Seth Wilkinson’s recommendation Swann be fined the upper end of the $5,000 to $10,000 range following Swann’s guilty plea to one count of violating the Endangered Species Act.
Wilkinson had originally asked for somewhere around the midpoint, but shortly after Swann entered his plea the previous November, the attorney learned of Swann’s long appeal of a denial for Social Security benefits.
Swann applied for them in 2006, claiming, according to charging papers from a federal grand jury, “that his daily activities were limited to eating, resting and ‘try[ing] to do a few things around the house.'”
“Billy Jim Swann further represented 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. Billy Jim Swann failed to disclose anywhere in his application materials that he was operating a professional fishing guide service,” read the documents.
When that was denied, he appealed to US District Court in 2009 and allegedly “falsely testified that his only work activity consisted of temporary ‘volunteer’ work at a fishing camp in Alaska for several weeks in summer.”
When the court remanded his application back to the Social Security Administration, in 2012 Swann told the federal agency that “his work as a fishing guide was ‘an unsuccessful work attempt’ and that ‘he is not performing any [substantial gainful activity] at the present time.”
According to papers, before another federal judge later in the year, Swann “testified that he [had] not performed any work other than a 2007 fishing engagement in Idaho and temporary volunteer work in Alaska.”
But court papers allege that he was actually leading “fishing excursions approximately 300 days per year in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. Defendant served as a professional representative for fishing supply companies, maintained his own website, and appeared on television and as a speaker at fishing seminars. Between 2006 and 2016, the business earned revenues in excess of $750,000.”
Yesterday, Swann was arraigned by a grand jury on federal charges that include wire fraud, mail fraud, Social Security fraud and perjury.
He plead not guilty, according to The Seattle Times.