"SIX MONTHS IN JAIL FOR TRAVEL VOUCHER FRAUD"
Spokane – Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that Michael Edward Harrison, age 27, of Touchet, Washington, was sentenced to 6 months in jail for travel benefit fraud. Michael Harrison will be under court supervision for three years after he is released from jail. He was ordered to pay $20,464.92 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
On May 6, 2011, Michael Harrison pleaded guilty to four counts of making a false claim for travel benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA). Under the Veterans Travel Benefits Program, the VA reimburses veterans for expenses (at 41.5 cents per mile) incurred traveling to and from the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center, when receiving services. Michael Harrison presented 202 false claims for travel benefits to the VA from September 2009 to October 2010. During this time, Michael Harrison was living on West Francis Avenue in Spokane, less than three miles from the Medical Center. Michael Harrison inflated the round trip distances he traveled to the Spokane Medical Center, claiming he traveled to and from Omak, Washington, some 280 miles round trip. The VA paid $20,464.92 in fraudulent travel benefits to Michael Harrison. The VA's travel benefit program depends on veterans who honestly submit travel vouchers for reimbursement.
Michael C. Ormsby, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, said, "I commend the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, the Veterans Affairs Police Department, and the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center for uncovering this fraud, waste and abuse of those limited funds necessary to care for our Country's veterans."
Michael Seitler, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, (VA OIG) Northwest Field Office stated, "the defendant in this case exploited a system designed to help facilitate veterans' access to healthcare. This system provides financial travel reimbursements to veterans so that they can more easily come to VA medical centers and get the medical attention they deserve. The actions of this individual served to divert some of VA's limited financial resources, from deserving veterans, into his own pocket. VA OIG is confident that this successful prosecution will assist in deterring others from defrauding the VA in this manner."
This investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, the Veterans Affairs Police Department, and the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center Police Department. This case was prosecuted by George J.C. Jacobs, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.