Jury Convicts Former Harrisonville Man of Social Security Fraud in Second Trial
Mar 27, 2023
From the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Missouri:
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A former Harrisonville, Mo., man was convicted at trial today after his testimony in a previous trial for Social Security fraud resulted in an additional charge of perjury being filed against him.
Michael Sylvara, 37, who currently lives in Ozark, Mo., but lived in Harrisonville at the time of the offense, was found guilty of one count of Social Security fraud and one count of perjury.
Sylvara was originally indicted for Social Security fraud. Sylvara, who oversaw his disabled father’s Social Security benefits from 2016 to 2019, converted $42,369 of his father’s benefits to his own use. Sylvara testified in his own defense during a trial in October 2022, which resulted in a hung jury.
Sylvara was subsequently charged in a superseding indictment on Nov. 17, 2022. The superseding indictment contains the original charge of Social Security fraud and adds the perjury charge.
Sylvara was designated as the representative payee for his father, who is now deceased. As the representative payee, Sylvara was legally obligated to use all of the benefit payments to meet his father’s needs. Evidence introduced during the trial indicated that Sylvara instead converted some of his father’s benefit payments for his personal use to pay his utility, insurance and student loan bills, as well as his realtor association fees.
Sylvara also presented testimony that he knew was false while under oath during his first trial in October 2022. Sylvara attempted to justify multiple cash withdrawals (totaling over $23,000) he made from the representative payee account. He claimed under oath he had an agreement with Social Security that he could be paid $14 an hour for taking care of his father. Subsequent investigation showed there is no such agreement and there never has been.
Following the presentation of evidence, the jury in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., deliberated for an hour and a half before returning guilty verdicts to U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark, ending a trial that began Tuesday, March 21.
Under federal statutes, Sylvara is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Courtney R. Pratten and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Bradley Cooper. It was investigated by the Social Security Administration.
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