Former Snoqualmie Planning Commission Chairman sentenced to prison for defrauding government of over $600,000

On Thursday, June 1, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice [Attorney’s Office Western District of Washington] issued a press release detailing its multi-year case against Snoqualmie resident, Darryl Wright, who had been accused of defrauding the government to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars.

U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes announced the former National Guard Captain was sentenced on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to three years in prison, three years of supervised release, and $646,300 in restitution for his lengthy scheme to defraud multiple government programs.

Wright, 48, who formerly served as Chairman of the City of Snoqualmie Planning Commission, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud in February 2016, admitting he defrauded the Veterans Administration, Social Security Disability, Washington State Employment Security, the Department of Commerce and others with claims of being injured while serving in Iraq with the Army National Guard.

According to the DOJ press release, Wright lied about being injured in a rocket attack and submitted pictures of destruction which had no connection to his service in Iraq. At his sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle said Wright dragged “many people into a web of deceit . . . this was a complex and nefarious scam implemented over a long period of time . . . it was a continuous fraud. . . a very lucrative scheme.”

 “This defendant brazenly lied about his combat history to get more than $600,000 in benefits he did not deserve,” said U. S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “His willingness to steal from a system meant to take care of those who have bravely served our country, or are otherwise in need, is an outrage. There is no question that the defendant earned the significant sentence he will now serve for his crimes.”

According to the DOJ, as early as 2006, Wright began his scheme by submitting phony statements to the Army and to the Veterans Administration to create the false narrative that he had been injured in a rocket attack. As the scheme progressed over the years, he made false and conflicting claims to various agencies in an effort to fraudulently obtain benefits. Government investigators estimate that his frauds cost government programs some $737,539. The Army also stripped Wright of his Purple Heart Medal and Combat Action Badge.

Per the release:

“In an evidentiary hearing lasting six days, the government presented evidence that Wright defrauded Veteran’s Benefit Administration of $261,719 in claiming he was disabled by a rocket attack that did not occur as he described. He then defrauded a Veteran’s Caregiver program of $83,967 claiming he was so disabled he needed a full time caregiver even as he was traveling, playing basketball, caring for his child and serving on the Snoqualmie Planning Commission. He defrauded Social Security Disability of $181,438 claiming he was too injured to work even though at the time he was employed full time by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Later in the scheme, Wright defrauded the Office of Personnel Management of some $48,226 by claiming disability from his job at the Department of Commerce. Wright defrauded Washington State Employment Security by collecting $29,860 in unemployment benefits claiming he was able and willing to work while simultaneously claiming to the Social Security Administration that he was fully disabled and unable to be employed. Wright further used his disability status to avoid repayment of more than $41,068 in student loans to the Department of Education. Finally, Wright defrauded his employer, the Department of Commerce, by submitting fake orders claiming he was on military leave.”

In all, DOJ said pleadings indicate that Wright victimized 16 different federal, state, local, and private entities, including agencies, programs, organizations, individuals and benevolent institutions such as Disabled American Veterans.

DOJ stated that the case was investigated by multiple agencies led by the Social Security Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG). The Office of Inspector General of these agencies were involved in the investigation: Veterans Affairs (VA-OIG), Department of Commerce (DOC-OIG), Office of Personnel Management (OPM-OIG), and General Services Administration (GSA-OIG). Also contributing to the investigation was the FBI, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division, the Washington National Guard, the Washington Employment Security Department and the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys David Reese Jennings and Gregory A. Gruber.

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