Decorated Naval Aviator Steals $124,000 from Distinguished Flying Cross Society
Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip L.B. Halpern (619) 546-6964
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – July 25, 2017
SAN DIEGO – Decorated Naval Veteran Anthony Ventura admitted today in federal court that he used his position as treasurer of the Distinguished Flying Cross Society to embezzle $124,000 in charity funds.
The defendant had a distinguished military career in which he flew numerous combat missions in Vietnam. Among other honors, he was awarded, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Bronze Star, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Following his military career, he had a number of jobs, including serving as a Senior Vice President with Wachovia Securities, LLC.
The Distinguished Flying Cross (“DFC”) is awarded to aviators and aircrew for heroism or extraordinary achievement during aerial flight. The first DFC medal was awarded by President Coolidge to Captain Charles A. Lindbergh for his solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. Other recipients include Commander Richard E. Byrd and Amelia Earhart. It is the only medal conferred by all five military services in all wars and campaigns since World War I.
The Distinguished Flying Cross Society (“DFCS”) is a national society formed to honor men and women who have been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The Society was founded on fraternity and fellowship among military fliers. It seeks to preserve the rich heritage and historical narratives of those who are recipients of the DFC and to educate the public as to the value of courage, patriotism and character. Among other things, the DFCS Teams with other organizations (e.g., the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation) to educate young Americas. It also awards scholarships to the descendants of DFCS members, who are pursuing degrees at accredited institutions of higher learning.
From on or about July 2012 through January 2016, Ventura served as the Treasurer for the DFCS. In this capacity, he had access to and control over the DFCS’s bank accounts, credit card accounts, and bookkeeping records. As Treasurer of the DFCS, Ventura was the custodian of all DFCS funds and had fiduciary responsibility to: (i) ensure that all funds were deposited in a bank designated by the Board of Directors; (ii) oversee the disbursal of funds as authorized by the Chairman, President, or Board of Directors; (iii) prepare financial reports for Board meetings; and (iv) submit tax returns as required by State and Federal authorities.
In 2014, as result of a series of unfortunate business decisions, the defendant filed for personal bankruptcy. At this point, he had insufficient funds on hand to perform a number of activities, such as trading stocks and maintaining his stable of horses. In order to maintain his lifestyle, Ventura opened up a bank account at the Travis Credit Union that he concealed from the Board of Directors of the DFCS. He then transferred $124,000 of DFCS assets to the Travis Credit Union account. He used these funds for a variety of personal activities, including: (i) $30,561 to run his personal horse stable (“Sovran Star Stables); (ii) $67,000 to purchase stocks/bonds through a company he set up for that purpose (“Ironbeam LLC”); and (iii) $25,600 in cash withdrawals to cover personal living expenses. In order to conceal and disguise his theft of DFCS funds, Ventura created fake quarterly financial summaries for the DFCS Board of Directors.
In addition to the embezzlement of DFCS funds, Ventura also filed a false Charitable Organization Tax Form, Form 990-EZ, for the calendar year 2014. This return, which was verified by a written declaration that it was made under the penalties of perjury, falsely reported that the DFCS had cash, savings, and investments in the amount of $148,049, whereas in truth and fact, it had only $15,810.80 as Ventura had removed and converted to his personal use the rest of its funds.
“Regardless of how significant an individual’s contribution is to our society or how desperate their financial condition, there can be no excuse for stealing charitable funds that are destined for the awarding of scholarships,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson.
“The FBI is proud to serve this organization of war heroes by uncovering a scheme that stripped their funds intended for charitable and noble purposes," said Special Agent in Charge Eric S. Birnbaum.
“It is unfortunate that Naval Veteran Anthony Ventura’s service to this country will now be tarnished by his decision to embezzle funds from the Distinguished Flying Cross Society, which also led him to file a fraudulent tax return on its’ behalf,” stated Special Agent in Charge R. Damon Rowe for IRS Criminal Investigation. “Mr. Ventura ignored his duty to file an accurate tax return and will now be labeled a convicted felon, in addition to a decorated naval aviator.”
DEFENDANT: Case Number 17cr1271-JLS
Anthony Ventura Age: 71 Lincoln, CA
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Wire Fraud – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1343
Maximum penalty: 20 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine
Filing a False Tax Return – Title 26, U.S.C., Section 7206(1)
Maximum penalty: 3 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Internal Revenue Service - CI