Tampa Man Sentenced For Stealing Government Money
Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday today sentenced Tampa resident Thomas Crouch (66) to one year, and one month in federal prison for theft of government funds. The court also entered a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $124,944.00, the proceeds of the charged criminal conduct.
Crouch pleaded guilty to a one-count indictment on August 28, 2013.
According to court documents, Crouch’s Aunt (Naomi Page) had been a recipient of U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (“VA”) Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (“DIC”) benefits, which she received based upon her husband's military service, up until her death on January 25, 2010. The VA periodically sought to verify Page’s continued right to receive benefit payments and, in the process of doing so, sent marital status questionnaires to Page to determine her continued eligibility, attempting to verify that she had not remarried. The VA did not receive a response from Page, which prompted a suspension of her benefits. After finally receiving a response from Page, shortly before her death, the VA subsequently reinstated Page's benefits. Page died on January 25, 2010.
On January 26, 2010, when reinstating Page's benefits, the VA mistakenly sent Page a check in the amount of $122,636.00. Upon discovering the error, the VA promptly sent out a letter on February 12, 2010, asking for the check to be returned or that a personal check be sent back to the VA. The VA investigated the matter and determined that the VA check had already been negotiated, purportedly with Page’s signature on the back of the check. Further investigation revealed that Page had died before the check had been issued, thus could not have contained her signature. Additionally, not having received notice of Page's death, the VA also sent Page two other checks, in the amount of $1,154.00 each. These checks, which also appeared to contain Page's signature, were negotiated after her death.
A VA investigation revealed that Crouch, Page’s Power of Attorney, had forged Page's signature after her death and negotiated the $124,944.00 check, to which neither he nor Page was entitled. When questioned by law enforcement, Crouch initially denied that Page had ever received paper checks from the VA, but later admitted that he had forged Page's signature on the checks and spent the money on a boat, a van, a motorcycle and a truck, and had given family members some money. Crouch also acknowledged that he received letters from the VA about the overpayment, but had ignored the letters and spent the money.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of the Inspector General. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Amanda C. Kaiser.