Michigan Woman Pleads Guilty to Defrauding U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Out of $1.7 Million in Veterans Benefits
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Claudia Ann Merrill, 61, of Farmington Hills, Michigan, pleaded guilty today to defrauding the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs out of more than $1.75 million in veterans benefits, announced U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich for the District of Nevada.
According to court documents, from on or about January 1, 2014, through October 1, 2019, Merrill devised and executed a scheme to defraud and to obtain money and property from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Merrill admitted that she submitted false applications in the names of veterans, as well as the surviving spouses of veterans, in connection with VA health care programs known as Veterans Pension and VA Aid and Attendance. In furtherance of the scheme, Merrill altered medical records to ensure that the veteran or surviving spouse’s physical or mental condition rendered them eligible for the benefits. She then fraudulently directed benefit payments into bank accounts she controlled, and concealed the benefits from the veterans and surviving spouses. As a result of the scheme, Merrill fraudulently caused the VA to pay out $1,755,412 in benefits that it otherwise would not have paid but for the scheme.
This case was the product of a joint investigation by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General and the FBI’s Las Vegas Field Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Burns is prosecuting the case.
Merrill is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge James C. Mahan on May 15, 2020. Merrill faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of her guilty plea, Merrill agreed to pay approximately $1,755,412 in restitution. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.