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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.”
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Known for acting on impulse, President Donald Trump has adopted an uncharacteristically go-slow approach to whether to hold Iran responsible for attacks on Saudi oil facilities, showing little enthusiasm for confrontation as he seeks re-election next year.
After state-owned Saudi Aramco's plants were struck on Saturday, Trump didn't wait long to fire off a tweet that the United States was "locked and loaded" to respond, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran.
But four days later, Trump has no timetable for action. Instead, he wants to wait and see the results of investigations into what happened and is sending Pompeo to consult counterparts in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this week.
That sound you're hearing is Army senior leaders exhaling a sigh of relief, because the Army has surpassed its recruiting goal for the year.
After failing to meet recruiting goals in 2018, the Army put the pedal to the metal and "did some soul searching," said Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, to ensure that they'd meet their 2019 goal. It must have paid off — the service announced on Tuesday that more than 68,000 recruits have signed on as active-duty soldiers, and more soldiers have stuck around than they expected.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein transformed into the Cigarette Smoking Man from "The X-Files" on Tuesday when explaining why UFO enthusiasts should avoid storming the mythical Area 51 installation in Nevada.
"All joking aside, we're taking it very seriously," Goldfein told reporters during the Air Force Association's annual Air, Space, and Cyber Conference. "Our nation has secrets, and those secrets deserve to be protected. The people deserve to have our nation's secrets protected."
SAN DIEGO — A San Diego-based Navy SEAL acquitted of murder in a closely watched war crimes trial this summer has filed a lawsuit against two of his former attorneys and a military legal defense nonprofit, according to a complaint filed in federal court in Texas on Friday.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — The Air Force is reviewing whether some airmen's valor awards deserve to be upgraded to the Medal of Honor, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said on Tuesday.
Goldfein revealed that several airmen are being considered for the nation's highest military award during a press conference at the Air Force Association's annual Air, Space, and Cyber Conference. He declined to say exactly who could receive the Medal of Honor, pending the outcome of the review process.