Federal agent tells lawmakers he wanted concealed gun list to find fraud

2013-05-01T17:53:00Z 2013-05-02T10:19:07Z Federal agent tells lawmakers he wanted concealed gun list to find fraudBy Elizabeth Crisp ecrisp@post-dispatch.com ​573-635-6178 stltoday.com

The federal agent who requested and received information on all of Missouri’s concealed gun permit holders told state lawmakers today that he never accessed the information but his goal was to find people who had been fraudulently receiving Social Security benefits.

“This was all preliminary,” said Keith Schilb, an investigator in the Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General. “I investigate and I find people who have falsely made disability claims to the government.”

Many of the details from Schilb’s testimony today have been revealed in prior hearings with state agency heads, but his appearance at the Capitol gave lawmakers their first opportunity to question the agent they’ve spent weeks talking about.

Schilb, who testified under oath and in response to a Senate subpoena, told the Senate Appropriations Committee that his request was made as he looked into a potential project that he could use to find cases to investigate. He planned to compare the list of concealed gun permits to a list of disability benefit recipients. Those who received Social Security payments for mental disabilities and also met the mental competency requirements to receive concealed weapons endorsements would be reviewed further, he said.

Schilb first received a disc with the data, unencrypted and through the mail, in November 2011. He said the information was jumbled and unusable, so he destroyed the disc. After a leave of absence related to a health issue, Schilb again requested the list this year. He said he couldn’t access information on the second disc he received because it was password protected and the password he received didn’t work.

The hearing lasted for more than two hours with senators asking Schilb, two of his superiors and a lawyer for the Social Security Administration, to discuss the idea behind his request, the process it went through and – ultimately – the end of it.

Jennifer Herman, the attorney, said that the investigator didn’t know how large the list was. When the agency realized that it included 183,000 people, the project was deemed inefficient and it was dropped, she said.

The federal agents repeatedly denied that their investigation was related to a larger federal effort targeting guns and gunowners.

“It was to target fraud. That’s what our goal is,” Herman said. “It didn’t work.”

Schilb said he got the idea for cross-referencing the lists after hearing of one case in which a person who was mentally disabled had gotten a concealed carry permit. Schilb said the case never went anywhere, but it raised his attention to the relationship between mental health and concealed carry endorsements.

But Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Republican from Columbia who has been leading the investigation into the release of the information, said that the two standards on mental health aren’t the same.

“You can be on both lists and not have committed any fraud at all,” Schaefer said.

He said that veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder could be among the group that would legally fall into both categories.

“It appears to me that would be the largest population you would pick up,” he said.

The state Highway Patrol, which facilitated the list release, has recently changed its agency policies to ensure that future requests for such information would have to come up through the chain of command.

Department of Public Safety officials have maintained that the release was legal and an attempt to aid another law enforcement.

Schilb said he worked with the Missouri Information Analysis Center to facilitate his request. He had worked with MIAC on investigations in the past.

An email from an analyst in MIAC implied that the investigation was a joint operation between the Social Security Administration and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Schilb said ATF was never involved and he didn’t know why anyone on the state level would think that it was. If the investigation had raised questions about people who appeared to not meet the mental requirements for a concealed gun permit, Schilb said he planned to turn those concerns over to the state Highway Patrol.

Elizabeth Crisp covers Missouri politics and state government for the Post-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter at @elizabethcrisp.

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