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Surgeon found guilty of stealing Social Security benefits

February 5, 2019

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — A surgeon and chief of trauma at LSU Health Shreveport has been found guilty of stealing more than $200,000 in Social Security disability payments.

A federal jury deliberated for around 10 hours before finding 58-year-old Dr. John Owings guilty Friday of 20 counts of theft of government property and one count of concealing or failing to disclose an event affecting right to a government benefit, news outlets reported.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Owings applied for disability benefits in 2008 and continued to receive those benefits through June of 2017, according to a Justice Department news release. Owings didn’t tell the Social Security Administration when he began working as a University of California-Davis surgeon in 2012, making $22,000 a month.

In 2013, Owings was hired as the chief of trauma at LSU Health Sciences Center and paid more than $40,000 a month, but didn’t tell Social Security officials, prosecutors said.

“Owings never disclosed his employment at LSU Health Sciences Center to the SSA,” the DOJ release states. “Owings took disability insurance benefits throughout his employment at the University of California-Davis and LSU Health Sciences Center that he was not entitled to.”

Owings denied criminal intent, saying mistakes were made but he was not trying to steal from the benefits program. Defense attorney Marty Stroud said that Owings suffered from a serious disease that affected his bones, but is now in remission.

A LSU Health Shreveport spokeswoman said that they are aware of the conviction.

“LSU Health Shreveport is aware that faculty member John Owings, MD, has been found guilty of felony criminal charges related to disability insurance payments,” stated Lisa Babin, spokeswoman for LSU Health Shreveport. “Pursuant to the LSU Health Shreveport policy, felony convictions are grounds for termination.”

A judge will sentence Owings in May. Owings faces up to 10 years’ imprisonment for theft of government property and five years’ imprisonment for concealing or failing to disclose an event affecting right to a Title II benefit. He also faces up to three years of supervised released and a $250,000 fine for each count.

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