VA OIG Continues Its Fight Against Stolen Valor, Recovering $71k In One Case

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rock Island Ill(Courtesy AP) – William Jones said he wanted help with his post-traumatic stress disorder.

In 2013, Jones, 86, told officials at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that his disorder stemmed from his service in the Vietnam War, when the AC-130 Spectre gunship he claimed to be on was shot down, according to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Rock Island, Illinois.

Jones — who had retired from a decades-long stint in the Reserve and National Guard the year prior — said he received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star Medal because of his time in Vietnam.

He wanted disability benefits for that service, but there was just one problem: It was all a lie, according to the DA’s office.

Jones was first denied the money after the VA checked his service records, but he was later awarded $71,142 after he appealed the decision and received help from the American Legion, which lobbied on his behalf.

The American Legion unknowingly used a newspaper article brimming with false details about Jones’ service to argue that he was a veteran and deserved the payments. The article included fake copies of certificates for service and combat awards, according to the DA’s office.

U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin also received a false “Privacy Act Release” form from Jones that included more false information. It said Jones, assigned to Special Operations, was shot down in enemy territory in 1972 and that a group of Marines rescued him three weeks later.

“In fact, as Jones well knew, he never served in Vietnam; was never assigned to Special Operations in Vietnam, and, was never shot down and rescued by U.S. Marines,” the DA’s office wrote. “As a result of these false statements to Senator Durbin, the Senator conveyed the false statements to the VA in support of the defendant’s claim for disability benefits.”

Jones pleaded guilty to lying about his service in August, the DA’s office wrote and has to pay a $40,000 fine plus the $71,142 he received from the VA. He will also spend eight months in federal prison and will remain on supervised release for three years after that.

 

Sentencing

U.S. District Judge Sara L. Darrow today ordered William R. Jones, 68, of Geneseo, Ill., to serve eight months in federal prison for theft of government funds and making false statements about his military service to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Jones was also ordered to pay a fine of $40,000 and to pay restitution in the amount of $71,472 to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Jones was ordered to remain on supervised release for a term of three years following his release from prison.

 

Jones had entered pleas of guilty on Aug. 22, 2017, to the offenses. During court hearings and according to court documents, the government established that Jones entered service in the armed forces of the United States in 1971 via the Air National Guard. Thereafter, Jones served in various Reserve or National Guard components. Jones retired from the military in 2002 as a Lieutenant Colonel. At no time did Jones ever serve in the Southeast Asia or Republic of Vietnam (RVN) theater of combat operations or in any other theater of combat operations.

 

In 2003, after retirement, Jones sought disability benefits, based on claims in statements to the VA that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder attendant to combat service in the RVN. Jones falsely claimed that he had been a Special Operations air crewman on an AC-130 Spectre gunship and was shot down and wounded. Jones claimed that he had been awarded a Bronze Star Medal with V for Valor and a Purple Heart for RVN service. The VA denied the claims after checking Jones’ military service records and determining that he was never in RVN.

 

Jones, however, continued to press for claims for disability based on combat service, submitting a false DD-214 to the VA and causing the American Legion and public officials to petition or write the VA in support of the defendant based on Jones’s false representations. As a result of his false representations, Jones received $71,472 from the VA for combat-related disability.

 

On Oct. 31, 2013, Jones caused the American Legion to submit to the VA on his behalf a new claim with supporting documents that included a copy of an article from the Geneseo, Ill.,  newspaper. The article was based on false information provided by Jones about his purported combat service, including copies of several false certificates for combat awards, a false certificate from MACV SOG (Vietnam Special Operations Group) attesting to Jones’s purported SOG service, a false certificate representing that “Staff Sergeant Jones” had received an Enlisted Aircrew badge in November 1971, and a letter dated 2008 from then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama stating that the defendant was a RVN veteran.

 

In addition, on July 16, 2013, Jones submitted to the office of U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin a “Privacy Act Release” form that contained false information indicating that Jones had served in combat in Vietnam in 1972; that Jones had been assigned to Special Operations in Vietnam; and, that Jones was shot down in enemy territory but rescued by U.S. Marines three weeks later. In fact, as Jones well knew, he never served in Vietnam; was never assigned to Special Operations in Vietnam, and, was never shot down and rescued by U.S. Marines. As a result of these false statements to Senator Durbin, the Senator conveyed the false statements to the VA in support of the defendant’s claim for disability benefits.

 

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Allegro.  The charges resulted from an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

This case accounts for only one of the many cases the VAOIG investigates, prosecutes and recovers the tax-payers money. He reminds me of one of our first cases out of Florida, Danny Crane. Fred, one of our investigators took a year to investigate and uncover his fraud to the tune of $22k from the VA. He was also prosecuted and ordered to pay back the disability benefits he had wrongfully obtained.

 

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