A federal grand jury sitting in the District of Columbia returned an indictment yesterday charging a former Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) official with a scheme to steal benefit money for veterans in need from the VA.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division made the announcement.
Russell M. Ware, 39, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, was charged with four counts of wire fraud in connection with a scheme to steal more than $66,000 from the VA. Ware was also charged with one count of bribery and one count of theft of government property.
According to the indictment, between September 2013 and May 2014, Ware devised a scheme to steal more than $21,000 in VA disability benefit money, which he had wired to his own bank account. The indictment further alleges that from October 2014 to February 2015, Ware directed additional disability benefits totaling almost $46,000 to a friend, Jacqueline Crawford, 33, of Gulfport, Mississippi, who was not entitled to receive the money. Crawford then kicked back more than $13,000 to Ware, at Ware’s direction, 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.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. It merely alleges that crimes have been committed. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case is being investigated by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Richard B. Evans and Rebecca Moses of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.