Nashville Woman Sentenced To Prison For Stealing VA Funds Intended For Needy Veterans
Squandered More Than $364,000 Intended to Assist Homeless Veterans
Birdie Anderson, 56, of Nashville, Tenn., was sentenced on April 18, 2014, by U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell to serve 2 years in prison for making false statements to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and stealing public money, announced David Rivera, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. Anderson pleaded guilty in April 2013 to stealing the money obtained in three VA grants, totaling more than $364,000 during 2006 and 2007, which was intended to assist indigent and homeless veterans.
“This is a truly egregious violation,” said U.S. Attorney David Rivera. “There is no group as worthy of government assistance as those who have served their country in the military, and have since fallen on hard times. This defendant’s greed and deception deprived that group of assistance they needed, and as a result they will not receive the benefit of the money she stole and squandered. Hopefully others like defendant who may be tempted to take advantage of government programs that are intended to help others, will take heed of this case.”
According to testimony at the hearing, in April 2007 Anderson obtained the first VA grant of $80,000 for the purchase of a dwelling. The grant agreement specified that she would not be required to repay the grant on condition that she would maintain the property as a residence for homeless veterans for a period of seven years. She represented that the property was worth $124,000 and that she had the rest of the money on hand in cash for the purchase. In truth she did not have the balance of the purchase price in cash, but instead obtained a mortgage loan of $75,000 to purchase the property. She then used only about $55,000 of the $80,000 cash grant provided by VA to close on the property, and simply kept the rest. She made only one payment on the mortgage, and defaulted on the loan. Though the property was used to house veterans for a period of time, it has been repossessed and is no longer available to veterans as a residence.
In December 2007 Anderson obtained a second grant of $25,000, which she represented she would combine with matching funds to purchase a $40,000 specialty van for use in transporting veterans to medical appointments and job interviews. Anderson submitted a sales contract and a vehicle identification number for the van she represented she was going to purchase, in support of her grant application. She received and kept the cash VA deposited into her bank account, but simply never purchased the van.
In March 2009 Anderson applied for and obtained a third VA grant of more than $250,000 for the purchase of a large apartment building worth $398,000. Anderson again represented that she would maintain this building as a residential dwelling for homeless veterans, and that the City of Nashville had agreed to provide the matching funds for the purchase. In support of this representation, Anderson submitted a letter which purported to have been sent by the director of the Nashville Commission on Homelessness, and which represented that Nashville had committed the balance of funds needed for this purchase. The letter was later determined to be a forgery. Anderson received the VA grant funds but never closed on the property, since she did not in fact have any matching funds. When VA officials inquired of Anderson regarding the fact that no purchase had occurred, she falsely represented that she was undergoing cancer treatments.
The matter was referred to the VA Office of Inspector General for investigation. Agents executed a search warrant on Anderson’s Nashville residence in February 2012. No money was located, but agents discovered hundreds of receipts demonstrating gambling activity at regional casinos and horse tracks. A review of her bank records likewise revealed numerous checks written to and debit card use at such establishments, during 2007 through 2009. Anderson told agents that the $250,000 cash from the third grant was in a safe located in New Hampshire. Further investigation, however, disclosed no such safe or cash being maintained on Anderson’s behalf and none of the grant money was ever recovered.
Monty Stokes, Special Agent in Charge, VA Office of Inspector General, said, “The VA Grant and Per Diem Program’s goal is to promote the development of supportive housing and services to assist homeless veterans achieve residential stability, increased skills and obtain greater independence. Because of the successful investigative and prosecutive efforts of the VA OIG and the U.S. Attorney’s office, Birdie Anderson’s greed and deception will not go unchecked. She will have the next two years to contemplate if it was really worth it.”
The case was investigated by the Nashville VA Office of Inspector General, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hilliard Hester.