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Alaskan claimed 'unbearable' physical disability, went fishing

Jerzy Shedlock
Loren Holmes photo

A 56-year-old Alaskan who claimed disability over the course of five years allegedly went dipnetting and fishing nonetheless. Now Amancio Zamora Agcaoili Jr. has been indicted for fraud and stealing money from the government.

Agcaoili faces 18 counts, including charges of wire, Social Security and Federal Employees Compensation Act fraud, as well as theft of government funds. According to assistant U.S. attorney Yvonne Lamoureux, who presented the case to a grand jury, the defendant faces 20 years in prison and a fine.

The charges say that between about Feb. 12, 2009 and continuing “until the present,” Agcaoili bilked the government out of at least $334,000. He allegedly received money from two federal benefits programs -- the Department of Labor Office of Workers’ Compensation program and the Social Security Administration Disability Insurance Benefits program.

According to a federal indictment, Agcaoili, a former U.S. Postal Service employee, filed a claim for an on-the-job lower back injury. He also filed for workers’ compensation, which was approved. He received the payments “by engaging in a scheme to defraud the federal government about the nature and extent of his injury and about the other work he was performing and income he was receiving,” a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alaska says.

At a doctor’s appointment in July 2009, the defendant described the pain from his lower back as “unbearable and constant,” ranging from eight to 10 on a pain scale, according to the indictment. His suffering was exacerbated by a list of physical activities: sitting, standing, walking and changing weather conditions, he allegedly said. He also reportedly used a cane to walk.

But less than two weeks later, he allegedly went dipnetting for salmon in Chitina, a small community on the west bank of the Copper River, and caught 20 red salmon. About a week later, Agcaoili went on another successful fishing trip on the Kenai River, catching 35 red salmon, the indictment says.

In the years that followed, Agcaoili was required to report any improvement in his medical condition, and he continuously reported no betterment and shuffled into doctors’ appointments using a cane. He also allegedly continued to fish. Less than a year ago in June, he caught 25 reds and a single king salmon on the Copper River.

All the while, the allegedly uninjured fisherman was cashing monthly workers’ compensation checks, each nearly $3,000. He never informed the Social Security Administration about the payments, the indictment says.

The government also alleges Agcaoili lied on annual forms by indicating he hadn’t worked due to his physical disabilities when, in fact, he was generating income by preparing immigration paperwork and tax returns for people.

Criminal Division Chief for the District of Alaska Kevin Feldis said the defendant’s actions undermine the integrity of the affected federal programs “and harms all law abiding citizens.

“We are committed to investigating fraud involving federal programs, and to prosecuting theft of government funds in all its forms,” he said. The state is cracking down on fraudsters, too, particularly cases involving medical services theft.