Six Veterans Plead Guilty To Fraudulently Obtaining Over $500,000 In Veterans Benefits
Baltimore, Maryland - Kenneth Williams, age 64, of Baltimore, and Raymond Sadler, age 61, of Middle River, Maryland, both U.S. Marine Corps veterans, pleaded guilty today to fraudulently obtaining veterans benefits. Veterans Sandra Tyree, age 64, of Rosedale, Maryland; Kenneth Webster, age 67, of Pasadena, Maryland; Paul Heard, age 64, of Baltimore; and John Bratcher, age 54, of Conowingo, Maryland pleaded guilty on Monday, April 29, 2013, to the same charge.
The guilty pleas were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Kim R. Lampkins of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General.
“Like all government agencies that award benefits based upon a sworn certification that the claimant deserves them, the Veterans Administration is vulnerable to abuse by dishonest people,”said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “The defendants cheated the government of hundreds of thousands of dollars by falsely representing that they were suffering from medical disabilities as a result of their military service.”
U.S. Army veteran David Clark, age 68, of Hydes, Maryland, the former Deputy Chief of Veterans Claims in the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, has been indicted in connection with the scheme to fraudulently obtain over $1.4 million in veterans benefits. As the Deputy Chief for Veterans Claims, Clark’s 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 indictment alleges that Clark fraudulently obtained VA compensation for himself, and others, in exchange for cash. According to the indictment, Clark claimed that he, co-defendants, and others, had been exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and had subsequently developed diabetes. In support of these claims, the indictment alleges that Clark submitted fraudulent documentation, including fake letters from physicians purportedly treating the veterans, which made statements that entitled each claimant to a retroactive lump-sum payment and increased the amount of compensation the VA paid the claimant. The indictment alleges that Clark created counterfeit versions of Defense Department Form 215 (DD215) for himself, several co-defendants and others, which falsely stated that they had served in combat in Vietnam. These documents were submitted to the VA to provide false evidence that they qualified for compensation benefits for diabetes.
Clark is also charged with submitting certifications to the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation stating that some of his veteran co-schemers were entitled to a property tax waiver from the State of Maryland due to a100 percent service-connected disability.
Williams admitted that in 2006, he agreed to pay Clark to submit a false claim to the VA on Williams’ behalf for diabetes purportedly arising from military service during the Vietnam War. Williams received a one-time lump disability payment from the VA in 2006 of $6,000, from which he paid Clark $3,000. Thereafter, Williams received monthly payments from the VA until October 2012, for a total of $42,567 in benefits that he was not entitled to receive.
According to their guilty pleas: from 2003 to October 2012, Tyree, a U.S. Air Force veteran and a former employee of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, received a total of $56,304 in benefits, and Webster, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former AMTRAK police officer, fraudulently received a total of $181,476 in benefits; from 2004 to October 2012, Sadler fraudulently received a total of $82,201 in benefits; and from 2006 to 2012, Heard, a U.S. Navy veteran, received a total of $58,060 in benefits to which he was not entitled. Neither Tyree nor Webster ever served in Vietnam, but they admitted that Clark submitted false service records to make it appear as if they had. Additionally, Heard admitted that he obtained a property tax waiver by having Clark submit false certification related to Heard’s purported disability. Heard fraudulently received tax waivers totaling $15,677 between 2006 and 2012.
Finally, according to his plea agreement, Bratcher, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1975 to 1980, stationed in Germany and the United States. Bratcher admitted that Clark submitted documents to the VA on Bratcher’s behalf falsely claiming compensation for diabetes, including a letter purported to be from his doctor. Bratcher had never seen this doctor and never served in Vietnam. Bratcher paid Clark between $3,000 to $5,000 to fraudulently obtain a total of $70,912 in VA benefits from 2003 to October 2012.
The total loss involving these six defendants, including the loss from the property tax evasion, is $507,197. The defendants will be required to forfeit all of these proceeds of the scheme.
The defendants each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for wire fraud and a $250,000 fine. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake scheduled sentencing for Williams and Sadler on August 2, 2013. Judge Blake set the sentencing for Bratcher, Heard and Tyree on July 12, 2013, and for Webster on August 26, 2013.
The indictment alleges that the VA benefit fraud loss as a result of the scheme is $1,151,219 and the loss from the property tax evasion is $255,555, for a total loss of $1,407,134.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. David Clark is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
Today's announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama=s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorney’s offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the VA Office of Inspector General for its work in the investigation and thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo J. Wise, who is prosecuting the case.