Chesapeake man pleads guilty to disability fraud after claiming over $400k in benefits

NORFOLK, Va. – A Chesapeake man pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of theft of government property after claiming over $447,000 in disability benefits from the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board over the last 20 years.

According to a plea agreement, Jeffrey A. Ratliff, 60, worked as a pipefitter for Norfolk Southern railroad from September 1974 until March 1995.

From April 1995 to August 2015, Ratliff collected monthly disability benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board while hiding his employment as a real estate agent. Ratliff claimed he was hurt on the job in 1990 and applied for a disability annuity in July 1995.

Ratliff falsely claimed that he couldn’t work because of his injuries and that he stopped working for the real estate firm in May 1995.

Ratliff was sent a “Disability Reminder Notice” from the Railroad Retirement Board every year reminding him that he was legally obligated to tell the board about any changes in his employment status.  However, Ratliff still didn’t tell the board that he was working as a real estate agent and continued to receive disability benefits for 20 years.

Federal agents interviewed Ratliff and he admitted that he worked as a real estate agent. He also said he was paid using his wife’s social security number to hide  his income.

Ratliff was charged on August 8 and faces a penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced on January 20, 2017.