WASHINGTON – A former Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) social work associate was convicted yesterday by a jury on four counts of honest services mail fraud, violating the criminal conflict of interest statute and making a false statement to agency officials, Acting Assistant Attorney General Rita M. Glavin and U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias of the Northern District of Georgia announced.
On Nov. 14, 2006, Bridgette L. Davidson, 37, and her ex-boyfriend, Darrick O. Frazier, 33, both of Atlanta, were charged in a six-count indictment alleging that the two created and engaged in a scheme to defraud the VA of Davidson’s honest services. Davidson was also charged with one count of violating the conflict of interest statue and one count of making a false statement to VA officials investigating the fraudulent scheme. On Sept. 2, 2008, Frazier pleaded guilty to one count of honest services mail fraud and entered into a plea agreement with the government. In December 2008, he was sentenced to twelve months and one day in prison and ordered to pay $20,200 in restitution.
According to court documents, from September 2000 through September 2002, Davidson was employed as a social work associate with the Atlanta VA Medical Center. Among her duties, Davidson was entrusted with finding suitable housing and living arrangements for mentally ill and disabled military veterans. According to evidence presented at trial, rather than place the veterans entrusted to her care in independently owned and licensed assisted living facilities, from November 2001 through mid-April 2002, Davidson, assisted by Frazier, secretly rented a home in Marietta, Ga., a city located several miles northwest of Atlanta, to house the mentally ill and disabled military veterans in exchange for monthly federal subsidy payments. During this time, trial evidence showed that Davidson falsely represented to VA officials and to the military veterans’ legal guardians and custodians that the facility was an independently owned personal care home suitable to house and care for the veterans. Evidence at trial showed that Davidson and Frazier used the rental income obtained from the veterans housed at the facility to pay some of the rent, utilities and related expenses on the rental property, and then kept the excess revenue for their own personal benefit.
Evidence at trial revealed that in April 2002, a veteran died in the home and the facility was shut down. The VA launched an internal investigation into Davidson’s connection to the facility. When interviewed under oath by VA officials, trial testimony proved that Davidson falsely denied that she had any ownership or financial interest in the personal care home she and Frazier secretly owned and operated.
At sentencing, Davidson faces a maximum sentence of 26 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count, as well as $23,400 in restitution. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled by U.S. District Judge Richard W. Story.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Armando O. Bonilla of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, headed by Section Chief William M. Welch II, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Teresa D. Hoyt of the Northern District of Georgia. The case is being investigated by the VA Office of Inspector General.