In December 2014, the 68-year-old former Deputy Chief of Veterans Claims in the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs was sentenced in federal court to a year and a day in prison, followed by two years of supervised probation, for extortion in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain over $1.4 million in veterans benefits. The criminal defendant was also ordered to forfeit $1,406,774 and pay restitution in the amount of $1,284,399.
The defendant had retired from the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) in January 2011. His duties included submitting claims and documentation on behalf of veterans in Maryland who appointed the MDVA to represent them in obtaining federal benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The defendant’s plea agreement acknowledged that the defendant fraudulently obtained VA compensation for himself and at least 17 others by submitting false documents to the VA purporting to show that the claimants had been diagnosed with diabetes, and in some cases that the claimants had served in Vietnam, when they had not, for which the claimants paid the defendant one-half of the retroactive lump sum payments they received in cash, or some other amount of cash.
The fraud scheme involved the defendant submitting fake letters from real doctors purportedly treating the veterans, which falsely stated that the claimants suffered from Type II diabetes. The fake letters appeared to be from real physicians whose actual names and addresses were used, but the physicians were unaware of the defendant’s fraudulent conduct. The fake letters on behalf of claimants stated that the diagnosis of Type II diabetes had been made a year or more prior to the date of the letter, which entitled the claimants to retroactive lump-sum payments. The letters also falsely stated that the claimants were currently taking insulin, which increased the amount of compensation the VA paid to the claimants.
The defendant also created counterfeit versions of a U.S. Department of Defense form for himself and five others, which falsely stated that each had served in Vietnam and had received various awards and decorations for their Vietnam service (including that the defendant had been awarded the Purple Heart), to provide false evidence that they qualified for compensation benefits for diabetes.
The defendant further admitted that he submitted false certifications to the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) on behalf of claimants who owned homes in Maryland, claiming that they were entitled to a property tax waiver due to a service-connected disability.
The defendant acknowledged that the total loss to the government caused by the false submissions to the VA was $1,151,219, and the loss from the property tax evasion was $255,555, for a total loss of $1,406,774.
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