Buchanan’s embattled former volunteer fire chief – currently being held on state charges that include rape, assault and perjury – now faces a federal charge over his finances.
Billy Joe Carter, 35, was arraigned Thursday in Roanoke’s U.S. District Court on a charge of conspiracy to defraud the government of income tax and benefits from Medicare and Social Security. His wife, Shana Carter, also was arraigned on the same charge.
Both are scheduled to plead guilty in the case Monday morning, according to online court records, but details of their possible plea agreements were not available. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Billy Joe Carter began receiving disability benefits in 2004 for personality and mood disorders, federal prosecutors said, but they claim that between 2005 and 2013, he concealed additional income. They’ve charged that Carter worked as a farmhand and farm manager at a salary of $5,000 a month from a single employer, identified in their documents as “N.W.”, and that he occasionally did additional project work for “N.W.” such as roofing, construction and remodeling. They claim that from 2007 to 2012 he received at least 151 checks from “N.W.” totaling more than $765,000.
Across that period, the federal complaint claims that Carter improperly drew Social Security benefits that just exceeded $130,000, and $91,828 from Medicare in services and medical equipment. Shana Carter was listed as a representative payee on those benefits, they said.
Between 2008 and 2010, prosecutors also said, the couple understated their tax liability by more than $110,000.
They said Billy Joe Carter also failed to notify Social Security of his work as Buchanan’s fire chief, a position he held for six years until 2012.
Carter testified at a November 2012 bond hearing in Botetourt Circuit Court that he was employed by his landlord, whom he identified as Norma Wells, and said he earned $30,000 to $35,000 a year from hay sales and had an income that varied between $100,000 and $300,000. He also said he received disability benefits for a brain injury that resulted from a beating he suffered years earlier.
That bond hearing came days after he was arrested on charges of raping an acquaintance and assaulting her boyfriend. Both Carter and his wife were later charged with perjury for testimony they gave at his bond hearing regarding firearms they owned. Billy Joe Carter was prohibited from owning guns because of a 2002 felony conviction.
Late last month, Carter fired his defense attorney and was appointed a new lawyer, but on Thursday his court date on the state charges were still set for Jan. 9, according to online records.
Shana Carter is scheduled to enter a plea on her perjury charge in Botetourt Circuit Court in March.
Staff writer Jeff Sturgeon contributed to this report.