At least 15 South Florida residents have been indicted in what authorities call a widespread, deceptive, and atrocious fraud and corruption scheme at Veterans Affairs hospitals in West Palm Beach and Miami.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney's Office said VA employees in the logistics department who were responsible for purchasing items at both hospitals took part in an elaborate kickback operation.
The suspects at the West Palm Beach VA hospital have been identified as 52-year-old Clinton Purvis, 44-year-old Christopher Young, 59-year-old Kenneth Scott, as well as a former VA employee, 62-year-old Robert Johnson.
"It's a very sad day in our country. These people have a duty to their job and their post," said Ariana Fajardo Orshan, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. "I am sad to report there are a few bad apples that have been arrested."
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Orshan said the fraud operation has been traced back to at least 2009.
Authorities said the VA employees would team up with certain vendors and place orders for things like medical supplies. Those employees would then go onto a VA computer and say the orders were filled, when in reality, they were not.
In turn, the vendors would give those bad employees a portion of the money that was paid to them by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"It went on for a substantial period of time," said Orshan.
Orshan added that, in other cases, VA employees would grossly inflate the price of certain items, like toilet paper or laundry detergent.
Once the VA paid those vendors, the employees involved would receive a financial kickback from the vendor.
"Today's announcement serves as a reminder that the federal government is committed to combating fraud, waste, and abuse of the system," said Orshan.
Officials said the suspects caused the Department of Veterans Affairs to pay millions of dollars for inflated or unfulfilled purchase orders.
In a separate case, 48-year-old Lisa Anderson of Delray Beach has been charged with making false statements in connection with an application filed with the VA to have one of the vendor companies falsely designated as a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business.
Orshan said all 15 suspects have been arrested, including one in North Carolina. If convicted, they could face up to 50 years behind bars.
Authorities said if you come across any fraud scheme involving the Department of Veterans Affairs or any other government agency, report it to law enforcement right away.