Woman gets prison for stealing VA benefits

Posted June 08, 2009, at 9:27 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A 58-year-old woman who collected 18 months’ worth of veterans benefits sent to her dead aunt must pay back the government and serve a short prison sentence, according to her sentence imposed Monday in federal court.

U.S. District Judge John Woodcock sentenced Lorraine Rich, who now lives in Bradenton, Fla., but who lived in Waterville when the crime occurred, to four months in prison and three years of supervised release.

She also was ordered to repay $27,675, the amount of veteran spouse benefits she collected illegally.

Her aunt Cora Thompson was given surviving spouse benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs after her husband, Vernon Thompson, a veteran, died, according to court documents. In 1999, Rich became Thompson’s fiduciary federal payee and agreed to notify the VA when her aunt died, which occurred on April 27, 2004.

“Ms. Rich did not notify the VA of the death, and the VA continued to make the monthly beneficiary payments,” the court documents state, adding later that Rich withdrew the funds and spent them.

The VA stopped making payments in September 2006.

Thompson also failed to report the funds to the Waterville Housing Authority, which supplied her with subsidized housing.

Rich pleaded guilty to theft of government property and making a false statement back in September 2008. She faced a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the theft and an additional five years and another $250,000 fine for lying on her application for housing assistance.

nricker@bangordailynews.net

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