Sevier County Police Officer Sentenced to 18 Months for Social Security Fraud

February 25, 2014 , by The McKellar Law Firm, PLLC
By The McKellar Law Firm, PLLC on February 25, 2014 8:05 AM |

Sevier County's first ever K-9 officer has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for defrauding the Social Security Administration ("SSA") by committing social security fraud.

Joseph Laney, Jr., age 57, left the Sevier County Sheriff's Office in 1989 after becoming its first K-9 officer. Two years after leaving, Laney filed for disability benefits citing "affective mood disorder" and epilepsy. He was approved and received benefits for the next twenty years to the tune of $319,000.


As a general rule when on disability benefits through SSA, one cannot do "substantial gainful activity" (SGA) and continue to receive these benefits. "SGA is defined as working and making more than $1,070 per month ($1800 per month if you are blind)." ( Laney was clearly in violation of this activity as he ran a martial arts school, was a dog trainer, taught carry permit classes, was a bounty hunter, authored a book, and was a private investigator. Laney received money for all of these ventures, but failed to report this income to SSA and/or failed to inform them of his ability to work.

Prior to handing down Laney's sentence, Judge Varlan of the United States District Court in Knoxville, Tennessee stated, "[i]n reflecting the seriousness of the offense, the court takes into consideration not only the loss amount, which the court finds significant, but the time frame (of) approximately 20 years."