A Greendale man who faked being blind for five years and fraudulently collected $290,000 in disability and Medicaid benefits pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to two felonies.
Lawrence J. Popp, 58, began collecting Social Security disability payments in September 2004, after claiming that he suffered from optic neuritis, which can lead to partial or total blindness, according to court records. He began collecting Medicare benefits in January 2006, and continuing receiving both benefits until June 2009.
All told, he and his family received $175,000 in Social Security benefits and $115,000 in Medicare payments, according to the federal indictment filed against him last year.
During the five years he was collecting benefits, Popp continued to work at his own business and was driving a car and even snowmobile. In September 2008, he told a worker who was reviewing his disability benefits that he had been unable to drive since 2003. However, just six weeks after that benefit review, Poppp renewed his Wisconsin driver's license, the indictment states.
In addition to collecting the disability payments, Popp also underreported his income to the Internal Revenue Service by about $770,000, and evaded about $178,000 in income taxes, the indictment said.
A grand jury indicted Popp on nine counts, but on Friday he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to two charges.
"The programmatic and fiscal integrity of the Social Security Administration’s programs is compromised significantly — to the detriment of legitimate beneficiaries — when individuals engage in purposeful fraud of this and other types," U.S. Attorney James L. Santelle said in a statement.
"The knowing misapplication of welfare benefit plans, pursued to evade the payment of income taxes, aggravates the abuse and has a quantifiable impact upon all Americans," Santelle added.
Popp is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 29 by U.S. District Judge Rudolph T. Randa.