BANGOR, Maine — Richard C. Ramsdell, Jr., 38, of Cutler pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court to theft of more than $1,000 of disability benefits paid to him by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
While the charge only distinguishes the theft as being over $1,000, Ramsdell is accused of obtaining more than $200,000 in VA benefits by making false statements about his back and his mental condition in responding to VA questionnaires, according to a press release issued Thursday by U.S. Attorney Thomas Delahanty. Ramsdell also claimed to be unemployed and incapable of working, the release said.
The government contends an investigation by the VA Office of Inspector General showed that Ramsdell has been harvesting balsam tips for two Washington County wreath manufacturers and has been working as a fisherman and a painter, despite telling the VA he had been unemployed for 11 years.
According to a VA ratings examiner, Ramsdell served only a period of months in the U.S. Marine Corps and would not have qualified for VA benefits without providing false information to the federal agency.
Court documents show that a physician who works for the VA, Dr. Susan Haley, was prepared to testify that the agency relied heavily upon a medical history and “factual information” provided by the defendant. She would further testify that he would not have received service-connected disability benefits if not for the exaggerated symptoms and the false information provided by Ramsdell.
According to court documents, Haley also was going to testify that Ramsdell appears to have a personality disorder “which is neither service-connected nor a condition for which he would be entitled to receive VA benefits.”
Other evidence that would have been presented had the case gone to trial included recordings of telephone conversations made during his incarceration in a federal prison in Pennsylvania in which Ramsdell described the strenuous manual labor that he was performing as an inmate and his eagerness to resume clamming once released.
Court documents show the evidence also indicates that Ramsdell “counseled other veterans as to how they could defraud the VA.”
Ramsdell faces the possibility of up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and could be ordered to make full restitution.
The case is not Ramsdell’s first brush with federal prosecutors. In February 2011 he was sentenced to four months in federal prison for stealing copper from the Telecommunications Station in Cutler. He also was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and make $4,900 in restitution to the U.S. Navy.
About six weeks after he was caught stealing from the naval facility on April 7, 2008, Ramsdell was charged in Machias District Court with stealing lumber. He pleaded guilty to that charge and was sentenced to 90 days in Washington County Jail and ordered to pay $100 in restitution.
At that same time, Ramsdell was sentenced to an additional month in jail for violating his probation on a theft of luggage in October 2007 from Bangor International Airport. In that theft case, he had been sentenced in May 2008 — just one month after the copper theft — in Penobscot County Superior Court to two years in prison with all but one month suspended and two years of probation.
BDN writer Judy Harrison contributed to this report.