Tacoma – The long-time operator of a guardianship business was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to one year and a day in prison and $256,336 in restitution for Social Security Representative Payee fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. WAYNE JEROME HOUSTON, 61, of Port Ludlow, Washington, owned and operated Cross Point Services LLC, a guardianship organization for disabled and vulnerable adults. Over the last seven years HOUSTON raided the accounts of 21 different clients. At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan said, “[T]his is a very sad situation all the way around.”
“This was not only a fraud on the federal benefits system that is designed to provide a safety net for our most vulnerable, it was a fraud on the court which endeavors to protect such vulnerable elders,” said U.S. Attorney Moran. “On each of the 240 times he transferred funds, withdrew cash, or wrote checks for his own benefit, this defendant betrayed the trust that had been placed in him.”
According to the plea agreement, HOUSTON and his company were responsible for managing the financial affairs of about two dozen 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—HOUSTON—to manage their benefits. 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. In all 21 clients suffered thefts, ranging from a low of $200 to more than $66,000 from one of the clients.
As retired Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Anna Laurie told the Court, “…the true victims may never be made whole. At least two have died since his criminal conduct became visible, and many went months without sufficient resources while their successor guardians struggled to pay bills and maintain care.”
The granddaughter of one of the victims told the Court her 90-year-old grandfather “was left with nothing…He got ill and we had to fight for his care…. It was so hard having to tell him that once again he had been betrayed…. That he didn’t have any money to pay his bills because Mr. Houston had taken it.”
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 Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin Diggs.