DENVER (CBS4) – Royal “Scoop” Daniel, the Breckenridge lawyer who disappeared in 2007 and was being sought by police for the next 4 1/2 years, apparently applied for and received federal Social Security benefit payments during the time he was being sought by law enforcement.
“The facts you recite seem to me to be essentially correct,” Daniel wrote in a letter dated Jan. 12 to CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass, confirming Daniel asked for and began receiving federal benefits at the same time he was being sought by law enforcement.
The letter was one of three Daniel sent to CBS4 since he was jailed in Summit County in December.
“I recommend you inform yourself at the SSA (Social Security Administration) website about how overseas payments are made, usually it is by direct deposit,” wrote Daniel. “Once a person is active in the system, it is possible to change one’s registered address and the direct deposit instructions.”
Daniel disappeared from Breckenridge April 27, 2007, but turned 65 in 2010 and became eligible to collect Social Security while he was missing. Daniel has said after he left Breckenridge he settled in Acapulco, Mexico.
Shortly after his disappearance police issued a warrant for his arrest, accusing him of stealing more than half a million dollars from his clients. But for the next 4 1/2 years, police appeared to be unaware he was in Mexico and unaware the U.S. government was sending Daniel Social Security payments.
Breckenridge police said they could not comment on Daniel’s Social Security payments and what they did or did not know.
“Since Mr. Daniel was arrested and extradited to Colorado, the Judges handling the case have issued ‘gag orders’ prohibiting law enforcement and prosecutors from publicly commenting on the case,” said Breckenridge Assistant Police Chief Greg Morrison. “We will be happy to comment on the case once we are released from the Judges’ gag orders.”
Jonathan Lasher from the Inspector General’s Office of the Social Security Administration told CBS4 that if there were active felony warrants for Daniel, and he was simultaneously receiving Social Security, the federal agency would typically notify the local law enforcement agency that issued the warrants. Lasher would not comment specifically on the Daniel case.
“As long as it was in one of the warrant databases, then the notification would have gone out to the warrant-issuing agency as to the address we had on file for the individual,” Lasher said.
Lasher said years ago, under what’s known as the Fugitive Felon Program, the Social Security Administration would have automatically suspended Social Security payments if it learned the payments were going to wanted felons. But several court cases challenged that program, and now the agency can only automatically suspend benefits for felons who are wanted for escape or flight from justice warrants. Daniel was not wanted on those type of warrants.
“Could local law enforcement have asked Social Security about the guy?” Lasher was asked.
“They could have made the request, yes,” Lasher responded, and he said the Social Security Administration would have likely told Breckenridge police what they wanted to know about Scoop Daniel’s Social Security payments.
In his letters to CBS4, Daniel offered more details of his flight from Breckenridge to Mexico.
“I can tell you that I entered Mexico and no one so much as looked at an ID, on either side. It was via a cab from El Paso. I never returned to the U.S. until Dec. 7, 2011, and I was fairly certain that I would be detained if there was a warrant for me, and there was, and I was.”
Although Daniel said after his capture in December he was unaware he was a wanted man while he was living in Mexico, he offered a different explanation in one of his letters to CBS4.
“I hasten to add that I came back with the purpose of resolving my case. I had no real need to enter the U.S. other than that. It appears that I could have remained indefinitely in Mexico had I elected to do so,” wrote Daniel.
Daniel wrote that he would be willing to share more details about the Social Security issue, “Once my case is resolved.”