Former VA Employee Pleads Guilty to Scheme to Steal Veterans’ Benefits

A former VA employee pleaded guilty to stealing over $66,000 in veterans’ benefits in a money wiring scheme involving an accomplice.

A former Department of Veterans Affairs employee who had previously been indicted for fraud, bribery and theft pleaded guilty this week according to an announcement released by the Justice Department.

Russel M. Ware, 39, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of bribery in the District of Columbia.

According to the plea documents, Ware devised a scheme in which he stole more than $21,000 in VA disability benefit money by wiring payments in the names of legitimate VA beneficiaries to his own bank account.

Between October 2014 and February 2015, Ware directed additional disability benefits totaling almost $46,000 to a friend, Jacqueline Crawford of Gulfport, Mississippi. Ware and Crawford were not entitled to receive the money.

Ware also admitted that Crawford would kick back money to him at his direction which totaled more than $13,000, usually through the use of Walmart2Walmart money transfers. Crawford pleaded guilty in February 2017, to charge of a single count of theft of government property related to the scheme, and is currently awaiting sentencing.

Sentencing for Ware has been set for May 8.

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.