A former employee of a heating and air business in Heber Springs was given seven years of probation after reaching a plea agreement in White County Circuit Court last week on two theft charges, including one related to Social Security disability benefits.

Jason T. Julian, 40, of Heber Springs had been charged with class C felony and class B felony theft of property in cases related to his job at Affordable Air Hot and Cold LLC. He accepted a negotiated deal with the 17th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney’s Office on June 8. In his guilty plea statement, Julian wrote that he was pleading no contest to the class C felony charge. However, ar.courts.gov shows him as having pleaded negotiated guilty to the charge.

In the class C felony case, according to an affidavit written by Detective Steven Cochran of the White County Sheriff’s Office, the owner of Affordable Air told detectives in November 2019 that Julian “had collected multiple unauthorized cash payments” from a homeowner on West Center Street in Beebe for work he completed from Feb. 13, 2019, to May 1, 2019.

It was learned that Julian had been passing himself off as the owner of the business and accepting cash payments when the homeowner, “upset with what he considered poor work done by Julian,” contacted the business, Cochran wrote.

Only $1,257 for the services reportedly had been given to the company by Julian, leaving $6,642 “unaccounted for.”

Julian was employed by Affordable Air from June 2013-August 2019, according to an affidavit written by Special Agent Charles M. Briscoe, but did not report his employment to the Social Security Administration, leading to an “estimated fraud loss” of $75,000 in disability benefits before his payments were canceled after September 2018 for “medical improvement.”

Julian reportedly had applied for the benefits in November 2010 after a vehicle accident. The Searcy office, which covers Cleburne County, “was charged with making an initial determination in regard to eligibility, as well as issuing various forms of the which the applicant is required to complete.”

While he worked for Affordable Air, there was no record of Julian “reporting complete and accurate work activities or earned income,” according to the affidavit. Additionally, a review of his disability reportedly was conducted in 2014 and Julian “did not report the employment with Affordable Air.” In fact, he responded on a report “that he had not worked since his medical decision,” Briscoe wrote.

Another review reportedly was conducted in 2017, however, since he “did not provide truthful details pertaining to his earnings, the review did not result in Julian having an overpayment on his record, meaning he was not required to pay back benefits.”

Affordable Air’s owner was interviewed and reportedly said that Julian had asked while he was working there that “some of the paychecks” be made payable to his wife and that Julian had told him that “he could only make a certain amount per month or he would lose his ‘medical insurance.’” In 2014, because Julian’s wife “did not want any 1099 forms issued in her name,” the company went back to issuing checks to Julian; however, he asked in 2017 that his checks “be applied to a credit card,” according to the affidavit. Reports confirmed the payment methods, Briscoe wrote.

Briscoe also wrote that “Julian’s reported tactics and overt steps to conceal his wages and provide false information to the SSA afforded Julian the opportunity to receive the SSA disability benefits under fraudulent pretenses.”

In 2018, when the disability benefits ended, Julian reportedly “requested a raise in pay to cover the loss of benefits,” Affordable Air’s owner said. He was ordered during sentencing to pay $68,392,70 in restitution to the Social Security Administration in $100 increments beginning July 2.

Julian currently operates a heating and air business in Heber Springs. It was named the May Business of the Month by the Heber Springs Chamber of Commerce.

A 40-year-old North Little Rock man also was sentenced on a theft charge last week in White County Circuit Court. Joe Gorman Thompson III pleaded guilty in a negotiated deal to class C felony theft by receiving and received five years in the Arkansas Department of Correction.

Thompson, who had a criminal history score of 5, reportedly was “confronted” by White County deputies for being in possession of a stolen truck Feb. 26 at the Exxon gas station in El Paso. The 2007 F250 had been reported stolen from Searcy on Jan. 28.

Thompson told the deputies that “he had gotten the Ford from a friend after finding the truck on the side of the road,” Deputy Kenneth Booth wrote in the affidavit. He reportedly also said that “he was told that if he were able to get the truck unstuck, he could have it.”

Thompson, who was arrested and taken to the White County Detention Center, received 96 days of jail credit.

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