Milan Man Sentenced to One Year in Prison for Theft of Veterans Benefits
Rock Island, Ill. – Peter W. Cooper, 59, of Milan, Ill., was sentenced today for theft of funds from the Veterans Administration, announced U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis, Central District of Illinois. U.S. District Judge Sara L. Darrow ordered Cooper to serve one year in federal prison and to pay $178,789 in restitution to the Veterans Administration. Judge Darrow ordered that Cooper report to the designated federal Bureau of Prisons facility on Oct. 17, 2016, to begin serving his sentence.
On May 5, 2016, Cooper waived indictment and entered a plea of guilty to an information that charged him with one count of theft of veterans benefits. Cooper admitted that he continued to receive benefit payments that were paid to his adoptive mother after her death in 2003. At the time of her death, Cooper’s mother had been receiving payments from the VA under the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) program, based on the previous active duty-connected death of her husband. DIC benefits are paid to surviving spouses until the spouse dies or remarries.
In 2014, by matching VA records with Social Security death records, the VA Office of Inspector General became aware that Cooper's mother had died in 2003 but the payments had continued and were then continuing. Payments were being deposited monthly in a bank account under the name of Cooper and his deceased mother. The VA OIG’s investigation revealed that Cooper, an employee of the Army Corps of Engineers at the Rock Island Arsenal, had been withdrawing the money monthly and spending it or transferring it to other accounts. Until the VA OIG discovered and stopped the payments, Cooper had received and spent $178,789 in DIC funds to which he was not entitled.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Allegro and the charges were investigated by the VA Office of Inspector General.