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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of West Virginia

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Veteran Charged With Falsely Claiming More Than $480,000 In Benefits

1125 Chapline Street, Federal Building, Suite 3000 ● Wheeling, WV 26003
(304) 234-0100 ● Contact: Matthew Lyman, Public Affairs Specialist/Community Outreach Coordinator

CLARKSBURG, WEST VIRGINA – A Bridgeport, W. Va., man has been charged with falsifying documents in order to enhance his Veteran’s Administration (VA) disability benefits, as well as fraudulently obtaining controlled substances from the VA.

United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II announced that Thomas Cueto, 65, was indicted on one count of theft of government funds and nine counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud.

Cueto, who served in the U.S. Army from 1969, to 1972, including time spent in Vietnam, was awarded disability benefits in 1999 for service-connected post-traumatic stress disorder. Since 1999, Cueto has collected more than $480,000 in VA benefits.

The Indictment returned today alleges Cueto falsely claimed on his Report of Discharge from the Armed Forces of the United States (also known as a “DD-214”) to have earned the following awards: a Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star with V-Device, Purple Heart and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. It’s also alleged that Cueto submitted a counterfeit Purple Heart certificate and other misleading documents to show he was injured in combat.

Cueto is also alleged to have misled VA medical personnel in order to obtain Methadone HCL and Hydrocodone, both of which are Schedule II controlled substances. He was allegedly receiving narcotics from private medical providers, but advised VA medical personnel he had not previously received the drugs from any other source. The Indictment alleges Cueto was fraudulently obtaining the narcotics between 2010 and 2012.

The case will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brandon S. Flower and Andrew R. Cogar.
It is being investigated by the VA Office of Inspector General.

Cueto faces up to 10 years in prison on the theft of Government funds charge and up to 4 years on each of the controlled substance violations. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is seeking a money judgment against Cueto in the amount of $480,000.

Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant. The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Updated January 7, 2015