gettyimages 83447853 Stealing from Uncle Sam? Not with the VA Inspector General on the case

(Photo  FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

By Jonathan Kaupanger

Sex with patients, hiding money in Vaseline containers, the False Claims Act, thieving relatives, and it wouldn’t be 2017 without some inappropriate groping. Welcome to the October investigation highlights from VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The OIG investigations for October 2017 have uncovered more than $58 million in fraud and theft.  But let’s start by looking at some issues surrounding the drug Fentanyl.

In West Virginia, a VAMC Chief of Staff pleaded guilty to drug diversion after it was discovered that they diverted and used about 5,225 micrograms of Fentanyl.  The chief had been using a patient’s information to access the medication dispensing machines.

Meanwhile, in Denver, a contract nurse was indicted for tampering with a consumer product and obtaining a controlled substance by deceit.  The defendant was charged with diverting hydromorphone while at a VAMC, but also tampered with Fentanyl while working at a non-VA hospital as well.  A VAMC nurse in Orlando quit after they also diverted almost 500 vials of Fentanyl over a six month period.  The nurse tested positive for the drug as well as marijuana and has since resigned from the VA.

And rounding out our Fentanyl segment, a veteran who was participating in a VA inpatient drug treatment program has been charged with providing two other veterans with the drug, causing them to overdose.  The two veterans have since recovered.

A naturalized US citizen pleaded guilty to cash smuggling in connection with an e-Benefits redirection scheme.  The defendant was busted with more than $100,000 in her carry-on luggage—$94,000 of it hidden in Vaseline containers—as she was trying to leave the country.  The money was the proceeds of redirected monthly benefit payments of both VA and SSA beneficiaries, as well as ill-gotten gains from victims of a Jamaican lottery scam.  It makes you wonder: just how much money can you hide in a jar of Vaseline?

In Wisconsin, a VAMC peer support specialist pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge and received twenty-four months probation after texting inappropriate pictures, groping and having sex with female veterans in his office. An additional felony charge will be dismissed once the now-former government employee finishes a three-year diversion agreement requiring the defendant to take part in therapy.  In addition, the defendant cannot have contact with victims or work in any capacity in mental health or substance abuse treatment.

In an unusual turn of events, a non-veteran was charged for using a forged DD-214 to fraudulently receive medical care for two years at the Charleston VAMC in South Carolina. The defendant also tried to get a disability rating, but was denied based on the investigation.  The total loss to the VA for his antics was about $197,000.

Badly behaved friends and loved ones of veterans were busted in October too. A girlfriend of a vet admitted that she took steps to assist him in concealing his employment from the VA.  She plead guilty to making false statements on a loan application.  The couple received IU benefits from 2009 until this year, about a $134,553 loss to the VA.

A vet’s granddaughter has agreed to pay the VA restitution of $157,029 after it was revealed that she stole the money that was directly deposited after her grandmother’s death. The son of a deceased veteran tried to pull the same stunt, but was caught in the act and ordered to repay the agency $126,580. Another woman was sentenced to 15 months incarceration and has to pay the VA $119,389 for a similar crime, while yet another person, this time the niece of a dead veteran, has to repay the VA $118,672.  She also was sentenced to 60 months’ probation.

In the big bucks section, a construction company and its owners are paying the US $3 million as a way to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act.  It was discovered that the owners abused opportunities reserved for Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses by using a service-disabled veteran to act as a “pass through” for their company.

A computer training center owner stole over $2.8 million from a program that was set to help older, unemployed veterans get training and find employment in high-demand occupations. The defendant logged onto the application system more than 100 times and certified that she was the actual veteran applying for benefits.  The defendant also allowed veterans to attend training for less than the required amount of time and in some cases, never attend training.  She has agreed to pay the VA restitution of $2.8 million.

For more information on these and more Veterans Affairs investigations, head over to the OIG website.  And to any would-be VA fraudsters out there, let these examples be proof that Big Brother will find you!

Connect: @JonathanVets1 | Jonathan@ConnectingVets.com

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