A North Carolina man was sentenced on Jan. 5 for defrauding the Department of Veteran Affairs out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The 73-year-old Fayetteville resident will be on probation for five years and spend 250 hours performing community service. He was also ordered to pay almost $1 million in restitution. He entered a guilty plea to a single count of obtaining government funds through health care fraud in June 2020. If he had been convicted after a trial, the man could have been sentenced to 10 years in a federal prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine.
The man obtained direct payment benefits and funds to make alterations to his home after telling the VA that he had lost the use of both of his legs due to the lingering effects of a shrapnel injury he suffered while serving with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. However, investigators later learned that he enjoyed an active lifestyle that included dancing, swimming and playing basketball. They also discovered that the man purchased an apartment on the third floor of a Carolina Beach building that did not have an elevator.
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina, the judge took the man’s military service and age into consideration before handing down the sentence. He also noted that the man is a former Fayetteville Police officer and currently provides training to individuals who apply for permits to carry concealed weapons.
The outcome of this case reveals that the sentences for committing white-collar crimes like fraud and embezzlement may be lenient when there are mitigating circumstances. During plea negotiations, criminal defense attorneys with experience in this area could urge prosecutors to recommend lenient sentences by mentioning factors such as their client’s sincere remorse and desire to make restitution.