TACOMA — A Port Ludlow man has pleaded guilty in federal court to Social Security fraud and could be sentenced to more than three years in prison.
Wayne Jerome Houston, 61, accepted a plea agreement Friday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, saying he stole from disabled and elderly clients.
He pleaded guilty to representative payee fraud and stole as much as $280,000 through his guardianship business, Cross Point Services LLC of Poulsbo, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Houston is scheduled to be sentenced April 17 by U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton. He faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, although prosecutors will recommend no more than 40 months in prison as part of the plea deal, according to the press release.
“This defendant stole from those he was supposed to protect at least 240 separate times,” U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran said. “He betrayed the clients who needed his help, as well as the Kitsap County Superior Court Judges who appointed him, believing he could be trusted to make sure disabled and vulnerable adults were protected.”
Houston and his company were responsible for managing the financial affairs of 15-20 clients per month, according to the press release. He had access to his clients’ bank accounts so he could pay rent, utilities and other bills for them.
Between November 2010 and December 2018, Houston stole between $150,000 and $280,941. An exact amount is still under investigation.
Of those funds, about $83,000 was Social Security Administration benefit funds, according to the press release.
Houston used his position as guardian to write checks from victims’ accounts to himself, to Cross Point Services or to cash, and he used ATMs to withdraw money from clients’ accounts for his own expenses, according to the press release.
He targeted clients who had significant income or resources so the thefts would be less likely to be detected, prosecutors said.