Former Director of Phoenix VA Hospital Sentenced
PHOENIX – Today, Sharon M. Helman, 45, of Surprise, Ariz., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Steven P. Logan to a term of two years’ probation. Helman previously pleaded guilty to making a false statement to a government agency, a felony offense.
“It is crucial that government officials, who are entrusted with authority over taxpayer-funded government agencies, provide accurate information when completing financial disclosure reports,” stated U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo. “Today’s outcome appropriately holds the defendant responsible for failing to report tens of thousands of dollars of gifts from a lobbyist while she was serving as the head of the Phoenix VA facility.”
“The FBI recognizes and appreciates the tremendous sacrifice and service our veterans have made for our country. With this in mind, we conducted a thorough and extensive investigation of the allegations surrounding the Phoenix VA. Our investigation revealed that the former director of the Phoenix VA Medical Center failed to report gifts as required under federal law and this outcome holds the defendant accountable,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael D. Deleon.
"Financial disclosure requirements are critical to ensuring that VA is able to assess any potential conflict of interest that VA executives may have," stated Michael E. Seitler, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Northwest Field Office. "In this case, Ms. Helman's failure to fully disclose her financial relationships, called into question her actions and decisions as a VA executive."
Helman was director of the Phoenix VA hospital from February 2012 to December 2014. Federal law required Helman to annually complete and file a financial disclosure report and to disclose, among many other things, gifts received during the applicable calendar year. In March 2014, Helman submitted a financial disclosure in which she falsely reported that she received no gifts during 2013. That report was false because during 2013 Helman had, in fact, received gifts totaling more than $19,300. The gifts included an automobile, a check for $5,000, concert tickets, and two round-trip airline tickets.
Helman also filed a false report for 2012, failing to report four gifts of a total value of more than $2,000. Furthermore, although she did not file a financial disclosure report for 2014, Helman received six gifts valued at more than $27,700 between January 2 and July 1 of that year.
All of the gifts were from a former high-level VA employee who once served as Helman’s supervisor. During 2012-2014, that person was an executive consultant, and later vice president, of a consulting and lobbying firm that assisted companies in expanding their business with the VA. Had Helman properly reported the gifts and their source, the VA would have done a conflict-of-interest analysis to determine whether her acceptance of the gifts was permitted under applicable laws and regulations.
The investigation in this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Veterans Affairs-Office of the Inspector General. The prosecution was handled by Frank T. Galati, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.
CASE NUMBER: CR-16-00245-PHX-SPL
RELEASE NUMBER: 2016-046_Helman
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