A former railroad worker admitted in federal court Thursday that he lied about income he was earning so he could continue receiving Railroad Retirement benefits.
Raymond E. Fievet, 63, of Billings, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failing to report information to the board. Fievet had been indicted on three felonies in addition to the misdemeanor. A plea agreement calls for the felony charges to be dismissed at sentencing. Fievet faces a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
The agreement also says Fievet agrees to be responsible for restitution of no more than $50,000 and that he will cooperate with the government.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Wolff said Fievet was a pipe fitter for Burlington Northern in Iowa. In 1992, Fievet had back and leg pain. He applied for and received disability benefits under the federal Railroad Retirement Act. Under the law, Fievet could not earn more than $400 a month or more than $4,800 a year in outside income or he would lose his disability benefit. He also was required to report any income greater than the restrictions.
Fievet moved to Billings in 1998 and began working as a driver for the former Big Sky Auto Auction. His reported earnings never exceeded the limits. A year later, Fievet's wife also began reporting earnings at Big Sky Auto Auction. This continued through 2004. Wolff said the couple's combined earnings exceeded the limits and, if the income were attributed solely to Fievet, he would have lost a portion of his disability.
An investigation found that Fievet's wife never worked for Big Sky Auto Auction, Wolff said. Loretta Flack, an office manager at Big Sky Auto Auction, helped Fievet hide income by reporting a portion of his earnings under his wife's Social Security number.
When the Railroad Retirement Board became suspicious of earnings by Fievet's wife, it sent Fievet requests for detailed information about his disability and outside income. Fievet replied but failed to list many months where his income exceeded $400, Wolff said.
Big Sky Auto Auction closed without notice in October 2004 after DaimlerChrysler pulled about 250 vehicles from the lot. Auto auctions are businesses in which licensed car dealers buy vehicles and in turn, sell them through retail car lots.
U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull set sentencing for Aug. 18.