ROCK ISLAND, Ill. – William R. Jones, 67, of Geneseo, Ill., entered pleas of guilty today to theft of government funds and making false statements about his military service to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, announced Patrick D. Hansen, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois. Sentencing has been scheduled for Dec. 12, 2017.
During court hearings and according to court documents, the government established that Jones entered service in the armed forces of the United States in 1971 via the Air National Guard. Thereafter, Jones served in various Reserve or National Guard components. Jones retired from the military in 2002 as a Lieutenant Colonel. At no time did Jones ever serve in the Southeast Asia or Republic of Vietnam (RVN) theater of combat operations or in any other theater of combat operations.
In 2003, after retirement, Jones sought disability benefits, based on claims in statements to the VA that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder attendant to combat service in the RVN. Jones falsely claimed that he had been a Special Operations air crewman on an AC-130 Spectre gunship and was shot down and wounded. Jones claimed that he had been awarded a Bronze Star Medal with V for Valor and a Purple Heart for RVN service. The VA denied the claims after checking Jones’ military service records and determining that he was never in RVN.
Jones, however, continued to press for claims for disability based on combat service, submitting a false DD-214 to the VA and causing the American Legion and public officials to petition or write the VA in support of the defendant based on Jones’s false representations. As a result of these false representations, Jones received $71,472 from the VA for combat-related disability.
On Oct. 31, 2013, Jones caused the American Legion to submit to the VA on his behalf a new claim with supporting documents that included a copy of an article from the Geneseo, Ill., newspaper. The article was based on false information provided by Jones about his purported combat service, including copies of several false certificates for combat awards, a false certificate from MACV SOG (Vietnam Special Operations Group) attesting to Jones’s purported SOG service, a false certificate representing that “Staff Sergeant Jones” had received an Enlisted Aircrew badge in November 1971, and a letter dated 2008 from then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama stating that the defendant was a RVN veteran.
In addition, on July 16, 2013, Jones submitted to the office of U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin a “Privacy Act Release” form that contained false information indicating that Jones had served in combat in Vietnam in 1972; that Jones had been assigned to Special Operations in Vietnam; and, that Jones was shot down in enemy territory but rescued by U.S. Marines three weeks later. In fact, as Jones well knew, he never served in Vietnam; was never assigned to Special Operations in Vietnam, and, was never shot down and rescued by U.S. Marines. As a result of these false statements to Senator Durbin, the Senator conveyed the false statements to the VA in support of the defendant’s claim for disability benefits.
The statutory maximum penalty for theft of government funds (one count) is 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The maximum penalty for making false statements is five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Jones also may be ordered to pay restitution to the VA.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Allegro. The charges are the result of an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.