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Press Release

Citrus County Man Pleads Guilty To Receiving Stolen Benefit Payments From The Department Of Veterans Affairs

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Ocala, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Robert Howard Lawrence II (55, Citrus County) has pleaded guilty to receiving stolen government property. Lawrence faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison, and a forfeiture of at least $364,497.80. His sentencing hearing has not yet been set. Lawrence had been indicted on April 25, 2023.

According to court records, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) program furnishes a monthly benefit paid to eligible survivors of deceased military service members. If the surviving spouse remarries, however, they are no longer eligible to receive DIC benefits and must report the new marriage to the VA.

Lawrence was a surviving spouse of a military service member who died in 1994. Beginning on or about November 1, 1995, through approximately April 1, 2023, Lawrence received DIC benefits from the VA. He was not entitled to these benefits, however, because he had remarried twice—once in 1995 and again in 2023. During that time, Lawrence had repeatedly assured the VA that he had not remarried so that he could continue to illegally receive the benefit payments. By failing to report his subsequent marriages, Lawrence illegally received a total of $364,497.80 in stolen benefit payments.

This case was investigated by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Hannah Nowalk.

Updated November 29, 2023

Financial Fraud