Five charged in benefits scam that stole millions from troops — including a former POW

Abbie Bennett
August 21, 2019 - 2:39 pm
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Five men have been charged in connection with an identity theft and fraud scheme that stole millions from veterans -- including a former prisoner of war, according to a federal indictment unsealed and released Wednesday. 

A former Army civilian employee stole the identities and other personal information of thousands of service members, taking millions of dollars worth of military benefits as part of a larger international identity theft scheme, federal prosecutors said in the indictment. 

The five men arrested are Robert Wayne Boling Jr., Frederick Brown, Trorice Crawford, Allan Albert Kerr and Jongmin Seok. They were charged with theft, fraud and conspiracy for allegedly targeting veterans and active troops -- signing up for benefits and opening fake bank accounts. The men allegedly routed the money through multiple countries in an attempt to conceal their crimes, the indictment said. 

In one instance, the men allegedly diverted $2,900 in monthly disability payments from a 100-percent disabled, 76-year-old former Army major who was a prisoner of war. 

In another, the men allegedly stole $41,000 from a 73-year-old former Air Force master sergeant's bank account. 

“The crimes charged today are reprehensible and will not be tolerated by the Department of Justice. These defendants are alleged to have illegally defrauded some of America’s most honorable citizens, our elderly and disabled veterans and service members,” Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement Wednesday. “Through today’s action, the Department is honoring our pledge to target elder fraud schemes, especially those committed by foreign actors using sophisticated means, and to protect the veterans of our great country." 

The indictment did not include details about how many service members or veterans may have been affected by the fraud ring, but said the scheme dates back to as early as 2014. 

The indictment says Frederick Brown, who was a former civilian medical records technician with the 65th Medical Brigade at the Yongsan Garrison in South Korea allegedly took photos of thousands of medical files of veterans and service members, including their Social Security numbers, military ID numbers, birth dates, telephone numbers and addresses for five years, from 2010 to 2015. 

The men then used that stolen information to create fake military and VA benefits accounts, access and then drain bank accounts and divert money to other bank accounts, the indictment said. The group targeted military-connected banks including USAA and the Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union. 

Brown, along with Crawford and Boling are U.S. citizens. Kerr is an Australian citizen and Seok is a South Korean citizen, according to the indictment. Boling, Kerr and Seok were all arrested this week in the Philippines. Crawford and Brown were arrested in San Diego, Calif. and Las Vegas, respectively.

The men could face up to 20 years in prison for the wire fraud charge alone if convicted. 

The Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs are working with the Justice Department to identify, notify and provide assistance to thousands of victims, in addition to work to secure private information. 

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Abbie Bennett: abbie@connectingvets.com@AbbieRBennett.

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