Miami, Florida – A federal district judge in Fort Lauderdale yesterday sentenced the last of 16 defendants for their roles in a large-scale kickback and bribery scheme involving employees and vendors of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers located in West Palm Beach and Miami.
Earron Starks, 51, was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $2,451,000 in restitution. His wife, Carlicha Starks, 42, was sentenced to three years of supervised release, including one year of home confinement, and ordered to pay $501,000 in restitution.
Earron and Carlicha Starks, both from Hallandale Beach, Florida, were vendors who sold supplies to the VA. They, as did other vendors, paid kickbacks to VA employees in exchange for getting the VA’s business. Court filings describe how in exchange for cash bribes, medical center employees used government credit cards to order medical and other hospital supplies from these corrupt vendors. In some cases, the prices of the supplies were grossly inflated. In other cases, the orders were only partially fulfilled or not fulfilled at all. Ultimately, the fraud scheme enabled the Starks couple and other corrupt vendors to receive over $20 million in purchase orders with VA Medical Centers in West Palm Beach and Miami.
“There is no place for kickbacks in our veterans’ healthcare system,” said Juan Antonio Gonzalez, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “These crimes not only violate the public’s trust, they also compromise the integrity of programs intended to help those who have made great sacrifices for our country. The United States Attorney’s Office will hold accountable anyone who tarnishes the VA through fraud, bribes, or other crimes.”
“These crimes were a gross violation of public trust and a threat to the resources used to care for our nation’s veterans and their families. The act of soliciting and accepting bribes undermines the vital work that honest VA employees do every day,” said David Spilker, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Criminal Investigations Division (VA-OIG, CI), Southeast Field Office. “The VA OIG is grateful for the United States Attorney’s Office’s partnership in holding these defendants accountable.”
Fourteen additional defendants were charged for their roles in this scheme. They pleaded guilty and received the following sentences:
Defendants who worked at West Palm Beach VA Medical Center (Case Number 19-80223-CR-KAM).
Defendants who worked at Miami VA Medical Center.
Defendants who were VA supply vendors.
All VA employees were either terminated or resigned.
The convictions were the result of a lengthy investigation by Special Agents of VA-OIG CI, who uncovered the extensive scheme after receiving an anonymous tip. A related case in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania resulted in another VA employee being charged with bribery. VA OIG, Criminal Investigations Division, is responsible for conducting independent investigations of VA’s expansive programs and operations, which includes the largest healthcare system in the country.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Perwin is prosecuting the case.
Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under case number 19-80202-CR-WP.
Special Counsel to the U.S. Attorney
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