Former Charity President Pleads Guilty to Embezzling Money
Admits Using $149,317 for Clubs, Hotels, Restaurants, and Women
WASHINGTON – John Thomas Burch, 75, of Alexandria, Virginia, pled guilty today to a federal charge of wire fraud, arising from his embezzlement while he was the president of the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, announced U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips and Andrew Vale, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
Burch pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Under federal sentencing guidelines, he faces an estimated range of 12 to 18 months in prison, as well as a fine of up to $55,000. He also is subject to a forfeiture money judgment of $75,000. The Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson scheduled sentencing for Oct. 5, 2017.
According to a statement of offense, signed by the defendant as well as the government, Burch was the president of the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, Inc. (“NVVF”), a nonprofit organization, incorporated in Washington, D.C. until 2016 when it was disbanded. NVVF solicited donations from the public, representing that their mission was “to provide help and support for American Veterans and their families through the generosity of the American people.” While the NVVF utilized some of its donated revenues to support the NVVF’s purported mission, Burch misappropriated portions of the donations to pay for food and lodging with no business purpose, and made repeated payments to women, who were personal acquaintances of Burch.
Burch had unilateral control over the NVVF’s “Emergency Assistance Program,” which accounted for tens of thousands of dollars of the NVVF’s operating expenses annually during the years 2012 to 2016. Burch represented to the NVVF’s Board of Directors the Emergency Assistance Program was a discretionary program that he ran as President of the NVVF, and that in fact, there was no oversight of Burch’s spending from the program in the distribution of smaller grants, generally between $100 to $300. In spite of Burch’s representation to NVVF employees and the Board of Directors that individual grants generally ran from $100 to $250 with the intent of providing only a one-time payment to recipients who were “usually Veteran family members with small children who are in chronic destitute circumstances,” Burch used the Emergency Assistance Program to give money to women who often were engaged in personal relationships with him. Burch also submitted expense reports claiming reimbursements for business lodging, travel, and meals, when in reality he spent the money on personal visits to clubs, restaurants, and hotels in Baltimore.
The amount of the charity’s money spent by Burch on non-business related travel, clubs, restaurants, hotels, and women between the years 2012 and 2016 was at least $149,317.
In announcing the guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Phillips and Assistant Director in Charge Vale expressed appreciation for the work performed by those who investigated the case from the Washington Field Office of the FBI. They also acknowledged the efforts of those working on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialist Christopher Toms and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Bateman, who is assisting with forfeiture issues. Finally, they commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia Cheatham, who is prosecuting the case.