Washington, D.C.–A former Department of Veterans Affairs official pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of wire fraud and bribery for orchestrating a scheme to steal more than $66,000 in benefit money from the VA for veterans in need, according to Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Russel Ware, 39, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of bribery before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in the District of Columbia. Sentencing has been scheduled for May 8, before Judge Mehta.
According to the plea documents, between September 2013 and May 2014, Ware devised a scheme to steal more than $21,000 in VA disability benefit money by wiring payments in the names of legitimate VA beneficiaries to his own bank account. Between October 2014 and February 2015, Ware directed additional disability benefits totaling almost $46,000 to a friend, Jacqueline Crawford of Gulfport, Mississippi. Ware and Crawford were not entitled to receive the money.
Ware also admitted that, at his direction, Crawford then kicked back more than $13,000 to Ware, usually through the use of Walmart2Walmart money transfers. Crawford pleaded guilty in February 2017, to an information charging her with a single count of theft of government property related to the scheme, and is awaiting sentencing.