An Ozark man is maintaining his innocence after a recent jury conviction in a Social Security fraud case.
Michael Sylvara, of Ozark, on March 23 was convicted by a Kansas City jury on one count of Social Security fraud and one count of perjury, according to past reporting. He lived in Harrisonville, near Kansas City, at the time of the alleged offense, federal officials say.
The recent trial was the second after another resulted in a hung jury. The Kansas City jury in the latest trial found Sylvara guilty of directing his disabled father's Social Security benefits toward personal expenses, such as utilities, insurance, student loans and real estate agent association fees.
In an interview yesterday with Springfield Business Journal, Sylvara said the prosecution and, subsequently, the jury got the facts wrong.
"There's a large amount of evidence showing I'm innocent and crimes have been committed against me and my dad," he said.
Sylvara said he took care of his father, who he described as an alcoholic, for three years and served as his payee. He said his dad, now deceased, met a woman on Facebook from Iowa who convinced him to sign documentation indicating he was able to handle his own Social Security affairs. Sylvara said he was not, as his father would use the money on alcohol.
After that relationship ended, Sylvara said he got his dad an apartment, at which time he was able to receive Social Security payments himself.
"He ended up drinking himself to death shortly after that," Sylvara told SBJ.
Sylvara alleges that if the state had not granted his father the right to the Social Security funds directly, he might still be alive.
"They just gave him his money and he drank himself to death," Sylvara said. "A week later, I got federally indicted."
In the second trial, Sylvara claims evidence related to his dad was not admitted because he had died.
Further, Sylvara claims that he did not personally benefit from his father’s Social Security payments. Sylvara said he and his father had an agreement for an hourly wage to take care of him, but that he didn’t accept payment from his father.
Under federal statutes, Sylvara could be subject to up to five years in prison without parole. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled, according to past reporting.
"As soon as sentencing's done, I plan on winning my appeal and getting the case to the [Missouri] Supreme Court, where they can look over the evidence," Sylvara said.
After the alleged crimes took place, Sylvara and business partners opened Volleyball Beach Ozark in 2021, according to past reporting.
Adrianna Norris became a first-time business owner with the opening of Finley River Chiropractic; PaPPo’s Pizzeria & Pub launched its newest location; and Huey Magoo’s opened its second store in the Ozarks.