GREENEVILLE - William Douglas Pickel, 58, of Blountville, has pleaded guilty to one count of Social Security fraud in U.S. District Judge J. Ronnie Greer's courtroom, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Pickel faces up to five years in prison and a possible fine of up to $250,000. He may also have to pay restitution of $129,444.60.
Following an investigation conducted by the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General and the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General, Pickel was indicted in March and charged with one count of Social Security fraud and two counts of making false statements to law enforcement, two counts of providing false statements to a governmental agency, and two counts of witness intimidation.
Pickel's sentencing is set for Sept. 24.
As part of a plea agreement, Pickel admitted to applying for and receiving Social Security disability benefits based on an injury incurred while working as a commercial driver for J.W. Combs in 1994.
Despite receiving benefits "dating back to 1995 and forward through 2006," Pickel continued working occasionally as a truck driver and later as the owner of Sullivan Truck Lines. Pickel admitted failure to notify the Social Security Administration that his ability to work had changed and that he was continuing to work.
Pickel began operating Sullivan Truck Lines in 2003, driving loads across the country as needed and overseeing day-to-day operations.