Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Ex-VA Employee Pleads Guilty To Siphoning Off $66,000 In Disability Payments To Personal Accounts
A former Veterans Affairs employee has confessed he engineered a simple, if twisted, plan to pocket more than $66,000 in department funds that were earmarked for disabled veterans. The ex-worker, Russel M. Ware, 39, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, pled guilty Jan. 23 to charges of bribery and wire fraud, according to a recent Department of Justice statement.
Between September 2013 and May 2014, Ware wired “payments in the names of legitimate VA beneficiaries to his own bank account,” according to the statement. Those illegal transfers netted him $21,000 — but he sought more, and to get it, he used an accomplice: a fellow Air Force veteran named Jacqueline Crawford, from Gulfport, Mississippi.
Ware suggested sending Crawford “VA hardship money available to veterans” — and all he needed was her bank account information. According to her plea agreement, Crawford, who was having financial difficulties, agreed, despite having doubts about the legality of the whole affair.
In seven transactions between October 2014 and February 2015, Ware redirected almost $46,000 in disability benefits to Crawford; she then kicked $13,000 back to Ware through 16 separate Walmart moneygrams.
“Ware and Crawford were not entitled to receive the money,” the statement notes.
The VA has been cracking down on this kind of graft, Curt Cashour, the press secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs, told Task & Purpose. Recent offenders include a Vietnam War veteran who pretended to be blind to bilk the government out of half a million dollars; a Veterans Affairs employee who took $225,000 in bribes from a parking lot operator who owed the VA $11 million; and a couple who stole packages of oxycodone and hydrocodone from the VA to supply an illicit drug-distribution ring.
Cashour said the department “has established a quick-reaction incident team at the Salt Lake City VA Regional Office” to investigate and, where possible, fix payment-related fraud issues.
"It doesn’t get much lower than stealing Veterans’ hard-earned benefits,” Cashour said. “Anyone who does should be subject to the maximum penalty under the law."
Ware, who was indicted last November, is scheduled to be sentenced on his bribery and fraud charges May 8.
Crawford, his accomplice, is also awaiting sentencing; she pled guilty last February to a single count of “conversion of government funds.”
'What happens after that is out of their control' — Former military leaders and lawyers react to Trump's war crimes pardons
On Friday, President Donald Trump intervened in the cases of three U.S. service members accused of war crimes, granting pardons to two Army soldiers accused of murder in Afghanistan and restoring the rank of a Navy SEAL found guilty of wrongdoing in Iraq.
While the statements coming out of the Pentagon regarding Trump's actions have been understandably measured, comments from former military leaders and other knowledgable veterans help paint a picture as to why the president's Friday actions are so controversial.
Raccoon infestations and extreme rust didn’t stop an anonymous buyer from nabbing this Soviet-era submarine
A former Soviet submarine that became a tourist attraction docked adjacent to the Queen Mary in Long Beach is expected to be sold soon to an anonymous buyer, with plans to remove the rusting sub by mid-May.
The 48-year-old Russian Foxtrot-class submarine, known as the Scorpion, had hosted paying visitors for 17 years before it fell into such disrepair that it became infested with raccoons and was closed to the public in 2015.
Former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, whom President Donald Trump recently pardoned of his 2013 murder conviction, claims he was nothing more than a pawn whom generals sacrificed for political expediency.
The infantry officer had been sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men in 2012. Two of the men were killed.
During a Monday interview on Fox & Friends, Lorance accused his superiors of betraying him.
"A service member who knows that their commanders love them will go to the gates of hell for their country and knock them down," Lorance said. "I think that's extremely important. Anybody who is not part of the senior Pentagon brass will tell you the same thing."
"I think folks that start putting stars on their collar — anybody that has got to be confirmed by the Senate for a promotion — they are no longer a soldier, they are a politician," he continued. "And so I think they lose some of their values — and they certainly lose a lot of their respect from their subordinates — when they do what they did to me, which was throw me under the bus."
Fifteen years after the U.S. military toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Army's massive two-volume study of the Iraq War closed with a sobering assessment of the campaign's outcome: With nearly 3,500 U.S. service members killed in action and trillions of dollars spent, "an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor.
Thanks to roughly 700 pages of newly-publicized secret Iranian intelligence cables, we now have a good idea as to why.
A U.S. Air Force combat controller will receive the nation's third highest award for valor this week for playing an essential role in two intense firefight missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan last year.
Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith, an airman with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing at Air Force Special Operations Command, will receive the Silver Star at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico on Nov. 22, the service announced Monday.