Cory Eglash, the former owner of a San Juan Island, Wash., coffee shop called Criminal Coffee, has been sentenced to prison after after collecting more than $42,000 from fraudulent disability claims to help save his dying business.
Eglash, 52, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud, mail fraud and making false statements to the U.S. Government in January after a four-day trial. His longtime girlfriend and Criminal Coffee business partner, 41-year-old Ramona Hayes, was also charged in the case, pleading guilty prior to the trial.
Although Criminal coffee’s tagline was “Our espresso is wanted,” the name is not totally ironic. In 2010, Eglash and Hayes told the local Journal that the name was in part to “put to rest” a questionable legal history, after Hayes in 2003 pleaded guilty in Nevada to embezzling $1,200 from a senior services nonprofit of which she was president. The couple bought the Criminal Coffee space in 2010, following a series of previous owners who failed to turn a profit.
According to the U.S. District Attorney’s office, Eglash and Hayes each filed claims with the Social Security Administration office stating they were unable to work. Hayes’ application said she was “unable to deal with the public and could not venture outside,” while Eglash’s application said he was “almost home-bound” and could not work or enjoy recreational opportunities. The applications came at a time when Criminal Coffee was failing as a business. Eglash’s application was never approved, but he managed to collect $42,000 before the fraud was detected.
An investigation by the Social Security Office of Inspector General office revealed that during the time the applications were filed, both Eglash and Hayes were regularly working behind the counter at Criminal Coffee. Eglash was also earning $17 per hour working part-time at a public aquarium and investigators confirmed that he played two full-court pickup basketball games at a community center on the week he applied for disability.