The Department of Veterans Affairs investigative arm has been busy.
Thanks to the VA’s Office of Inspector General, a group of Georgia men have been convicted of stealing monthly Social Security and disabled veterans benefits and diverting them to their own accounts, starting in 2012. Some of the cash was put on prepaid credit cards and mailed to the creator of the scheme in Jamaica. Using personal information gathered from their victims, the scammers contacted the VA and Social Security to have the monthly benefit money redirected to their own accounts.
In all, 18 thieves were nabbed, and so far, they’ve been sentenced to over 600 months in prison. Several of them will be paying back $1 million apiece in restitution. The maximum penalty for each could have been 30 years in prison. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
Then there was the Rhode Island woman (a VA employee) who held herself out as being a wounded Marine Corps veteran and … you guessed it, a Purple Heart recipient. When will they ever learn? Genuine Purple Heart recipients are known. This particular thief forged military discharge documents (DD-214) and committed wire fraud for the purpose of cashing in on the benefits and help that would come to her. She used her personal VA email account to order a Purple Heart, which she wore on a Marine Corps uniform.
Then she started in on her cash collection endeavors, which included $207,000 from the Wounded Warrior program; $18,472 from another group for mortgage payments and a gym membership; and $4,700 from a web fundraising for her alleged cancer, which she claimed she got from burn pits in Iraq.
Meanwhile, as her schemes and scams unfolded, she served as commander at the local VFW, wearing her uniform (and the Purple Heart) at many events. She was tripped up when she asked for more money from another organization, and someone thought to (finally) check her info in the VA database.
Nope, it didn’t exist.
(c) 2022 King Features Synd., Inc.
Image by Jonathan Hammond