DOJ: Snoqualmie Washington Man Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Defrauding Government Programs of More than $646,000
A former Captain of the Idaho and Washington National Guard was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to three years in prison, three years of supervised release, and $646,300 in restitution for his lengthy scheme to defraud multiple government programs, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.
As early as 2006, WRIGHT began his scheme to defraud by submitting phony statements to the Army and to the Veterans Administration to create the false narrative that he had been injured in a rocket attack. As the scheme progressed over the years, WRIGHT made false and conflicting claims to various agencies in an effort to fraudulently obtain benefits. Government investigators estimate that WRIGHT’s frauds cost government programs some $737,539.
In an evidentiary hearing lasting six days, the government presented evidence that WRIGHT defrauded Veteran’s Benefit Administration of $261,719 in claiming he was disabled by a rocket attack that did not occur as he described. WRIGHT then defrauded a Veteran’s Caregiver program of $83,967 claiming he was so disabled he needed a full time caregiver even as he was traveling, playing basketball, caring for his child and serving on the Snoqualmie Planning Commission. He defrauded Social Security Disability of $181,438 claiming he was too injured to work even though at the time he was employed full time by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Later in the scheme, WRIGHT defrauded the Office of Personnel Management of some $48,226 by claiming disability from his job at the Department of Commerce. WRIGHT defrauded Washington State Employment Security by collecting $29,860 in unemployment benefits claiming he was able and willing to work while simultaneously claiming to the Social Security Administration that he was fully disabled and unable to be employed. WRIGHT further used his disability status to avoid repayment of more than $41,068 in student loans to the Department of Education. Finally, WRIGHT defrauded his employer, the Department of Commerce, by submitting fake orders claiming he was on military leave. Press Release.
DOJ OIG: Review of the Debt Collection Program of the United States Attorneys’ Offices
Collecting debts arising from criminal and civil cases is an important and enormous responsibility for the Department of Justice (Department). The Department’s 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices (USAO) located throughout the country are primarily responsible for the enforcement and collection of debts owed to the United States and the victims of federal crimes. The USAOs have largely assigned this task to their Financial Litigation Units (FLU), though the USAOs’ Criminal Divisions and Asset Forfeiture units also play a role in coordinating with the FLUs to ensure that they can collect debts for victims and the federal government.
At the end of fiscal year (FY) 2014, the principal balance and interest owed on outstanding federal criminal and civil debts totaled $114.6 billion, with criminal debts accounting for about 89 percent of this total.
While the Department has indicated that the collection of debts owed to the United States and crime victims is a priority, the OIG found that, in many cases, USAOs have not put in place the policies and procedures or resources needed to make this a reality. Rather, we found that many USAOs have failed to prioritize debt collection activity and that this has resulted in insufficient staffing of both AUSA and support positions, as well as ineffective collaboration between the FLU and other units in the USAOs thus hindering the ability of the USAOs to fulfill their mission to collect debts. Report.