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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Alaska

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 4, 2022

Anchorage Man Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charges

Involving passports and the receipt of $518,401 in fraudulent government benefits

ANCHORAGE – An Anchorage man was charged by information today and immediately pleaded guilty to passport fraud, health care benefits fraud, false statements relating to health care benefits, Social Security benefits fraud and false statements.

According to court documents, William Joe Westfall, 72, was born in 1949 and served in the U.S. Navy from July 1972 – July 1978. He was a computer technician and retired as a Petty Officer First Class. He did not serve in the Vietnam War, was never stationed in Vietnam, and never traveled to Vietnam or the waters near Vietnam during his service in the U.S. Navy.

Despite his true past, Westfall applied for Medicare benefits in December 2010 stating that he was born in 1941 when he knew that he was born in 1949. Based on this false information, U.S. agencies determined that Westfall was eligible for Medicare and additional Social Security benefits. Since this time, Westfall has received more than $44,000 in Medicare benefits to which he was not entitled and $144,000 more than he was entitled to in Social Security benefits.

In June 2011, Westfall applied for Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical benefits. In support of his application, Westfall submitted a military discharge document known as a DD-214 to establish eligibility based on prior service in Vietnam. The DD-214 showed his alleged Vietnam War service and 1941 birth year.  Westfall also later claimed to have been a diver in the U.S. Navy, suffered hearing loss as a result of his Vietnam service and to have been exposed to Agent Orange in order to obtain a service-related disability determination through the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). The DD-214 and statements about his service in Vietnam, including the associated health issues arising from that service, were false.  In total, Westfall received $331,401.81 in VBA and VHA benefits to which he was not entitled.   

In February 2016, Westfall applied for a U.S. Passport and falsely stated that his birth year was 1941. The passport was issued with the false birth year.

Additionally, in June 2021, federal agents from the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General interviewed Westfall about these issues. During the interview, Westfall lied to agents by again falsely claiming he was born in 1941, served in Vietnam and was exposed to Agent Orange along the Mekong River Delta.

As part of his plea agreement, Westfall will pay full restitution of $518,401.81 and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

“Every year the United States suffers enormous losses from fraud against government programs,” said U. S. Attorney John E. Kuhn, Jr. of the District of Alaska. “Fraud against government entitlements and services is intolerable, as it is truly a theft from all taxpayers. Westfall’s half-million-dollar fraud scheme compromised a multitude of programs run by multiple agencies: the Social Security Administration, Medicare, the Veterans Administration, and the Department of State. We applaud the collaborative work of these agencies in investigating this case; their efforts secure the integrity of our programs and services and preserve the limited resources available to fund those programs.”

“This conviction demonstrates the VA OIG’s unwavering commitment to protect programs intended to assist veterans that have served this nation and rightfully earned their benefits,” said Special Agent in Charge Jason P. Root of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s Northwestern Field Office.

“HHS-OIG remains vigilant in our quest to identify individuals who attempt to illegally benefit from federal funds and deprive law-abiding citizens from much needed health benefits,” stated Special Agent in Charge Steven J. Ryan of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “Working with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to investigate illegal acts and hold accountable individuals who defraud federal health care programs.”

“This guilty plea results from our collective efforts to hold accountable those who make false statements to obtain Federal benefits. Mr. Westfall deliberately provided fictious biographical information, which caused Social Security Administration (SSA) to improperly pay him more than $144,000 in benefits that he should not have received,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate those who defraud SSA. I thank the Diplomatic Security Services, Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and Health and Human Services OIG for their support in this investigation. I also thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their efforts in this case.” 

“The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) is firmly committed to working with the U.S. Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute all allegations of criminal activity related to passport and visa fraud,” said Special Agent in Charge William Chang of the DSS San Francisco Field Office. “The strong relationship we enjoy with our federal and local law enforcement partners is vital towards ensuring the integrity of U.S. travel documents and protecting greater U.S. interests.”

This case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Criminal Investigations Division; Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Investigation; and the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General.  

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Heyman is prosecuting the case.

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Updated April 4, 2022