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Kent man arrested for investigation of fraudulent Veterans Affairs claims

A Kent man was one of two Veterans Affairs employees arrested Tuesday at work following an investigation of more than $110,000 in fraudulent claims in a program designed to reimburse veterans for their travel to medical appointments.

The two employees allegedly recruited veterans to submit phony vouchers for travel expenses they had not incurred, according to a U.S. Attorney's Office media release. The employees reportedly processed the vouchers and then demanded kick-backs from the veterans of the funds they illegally obtained.

“We owe it to our veterans to protect the money set aside for their medical care,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan. “Every dollar of fraud takes benefits from the many veterans who are returning home and need the support services the VA provides.”

According to the complaint filed in the case, Nick B. Hall, 46, of Seattle, and Keishjuan Daniels, 32, of Kent, each worked as travel clerks for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to process veterans’ travel benefit claims. The men were employed at the VA Medical Center on Beacon Hill in Seattle.

Between January 2011 and May 2012, Hall and Daniels conspired with five veterans to submit false travel vouchers for trips from addresses in Eastern Washington and Oregon so that the VA would pay out more than $110,000 in travel claims. In some instances the claims for reimbursement were on dates when no appointments ever occurred.

The veterans who received the fraudulent payments are charged in the conspiracy and will appear in U.S. District Court later this month.

Hall and Daniels were scheduled to appear Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Michael E. Seitler, special agent in charge of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Northwest Field Office, stated that “the actions of these two corrupt government employees, and the five veterans who conspired with them, served to divert precious financial resources from the VA’s critical mission of providing healthcare to this nation’s military veterans. The VA Office of Inspector General will continue to aggressively pursue investigations of this type and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.”

The complaint details various fraudulent claims made by five veterans with the assistance of Hall and Daniels. In each instance the two employees took a portion of the money the veterans obtained:

• Between January 2011, and February 2012, Aaron Adams claimed 92 trips from Pullman for VA services in Seattle. The total reimbursement for those trips was $22,511. However, Adams never resided at a Pullman address.

• Between October 2011 and May 2012, Terazze Taylor claimed 93 trips from Richland to the VA Hospital in Seattle worth more than $16,000. Some of the requests for reimbursement were for dates when no appointments occurred.

• Between April 2011 and May 2012, Timmy Joe Taylor claimed 132 trips between Richland and Seattle at a cost of more than $23,000. Taylor lived in West Seattle at the time.

• Between January 2011 and March 2012, Montez Cornelius claimed reimbursement for about 100 trips from Odessa or Portland to Seattle. He received more than $20,000 in payments. He lived in Federal Way throughout that time period.

• Between July 2011 and May 2012, William Thornton claimed 91 trips between Omak and Seattle at a cost of more than $20,000. The veteran admits he never lived in Omak, and his real address was in Normandy Park.

Conspiracy to defraud the government is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The case is being investigated by the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG) as part of a nationwide focus on rooting out fraud in the travel benefits program.

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