Feds bust business owner claiming disability

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by CHRIS INGALLS / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @cjingalls

KING5.com

Posted on June 14, 2013 at 4:59 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 14 at 5:05 PM

He ran a robust landscaping business during the day and came home to a publicly subsidized apartment unit in Seattle at night.

On Friday a federal judge sentenced Vernal Morris to five months in prison and ordered him to payback $60,000 taxpayer dollars for illegally receiving public housing, food stamps and disability payments.

A Seattle Housing Authority worker became suspicious in 2011 when he saw Morris driving in a newer truck with a sign that said B and V Landscaping on the side.  When questioned, Morris denied that he owned the business.

But investigators with the Office of Inspector General of the Social Security Administration and the DSHS Office of Fraud Investigations weren’t convinced.

They set up a videotaped sting in which an agent posed as a homeowner who needed landscaping.  On the tape Morris admits to owning and operating the landscaping business that employs six workers.

In applying for benefits five years ago, Morris claimed he was severely disabled and unable to work.

Morris wouldn’t speak with KING 5 when leaving the courthouse Friday.  He told U.S. District Judge John Coughenhour he was “ashamed” of what he had done.

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